2018 Reading Challenges: Old School Kidlit

http://blbooks.blogspot.com/2017/12/2018-reading-challenges-old-school.html

Old School Kidlit Reading Challenge
Host: Read-at-Home-Mom (sign up)
Check in at the end of each month with a list of what you've read and links to any reviews you have posted. When you post on social media, tag your posts with #OldSchoolKidlit2018
January - December 2018
# of books: 42

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42

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
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Mr. Dickens and His Carol

http://blbooks.blogspot.com/2017/12/mr-dickens-and-his-carol.html

Mr. Dickens and His Carol. Samantha Silva. 2017. 288 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: On that unseasonably warm November day at One Devonshire Terrace, Christmas was not in his head at all. His cravat was loose, top button of his waistcoat undone, study windows flung open as far as they’d go. Chestnut curls bobbed over his dark slate eyes that brightened to each word he wrote: this one, no, that one, scribble and scratch, a raised brow, a tucked chin, a guffaw. Every expression was at the ready, every limb engaged in the urgent deed. Nothing else existed. Not hunger or thirst, not the thrumming of the household above and below—a wife about to give birth, five children already, four servants, two Newfoundlands, a Pomeranian, and the Master’s Cat, now pawing at his quill. Not time, neither past nor future, just the clear-eyed now, and words spilling out of him faster than he could think them. 

 Premise/plot: Mr. Dickens and His Carol is a fictionalized account of how Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol. It contains several true facts: the necessity of writing/publishing a Christmas book in such a short period of time; the name of Charles Dickens and his family members; quotes from A Christmas Carol. But it is largely fictional.

It is just a few weeks before Christmas. His wife has just given birth. His publisher has come to him with a demand: write a Christmas book...or else. His last book--his current book, Martin Chuzzlewit--isn't doing well...at all. His publishers NEED a successful book. There is no other way.

Dickens finds himself in need of a MUSE.

My thoughts: This was an extremely entertaining and mostly satisfying read. It is divorced from truth, perhaps. But I found it almost impossible to put down. The chapters just beg to be read right then and there. It helps that they are short chapters too. The writing was delicious. I'll do my best to show you what I mean:
“To whom shall I make it?” “Marley, sir. Jacob. A man who’s never missed a word you’ve written.” “My favorite sort of reader.” Dickens signed with a flourish. He sensed his children watching, felt Mamie squeeze his arm. He handed the album back with a satisfied smile. “Jacob Marley, I am ever in your service.” The gentleman flipped to the page to review his newest get. “Dickens? I thought you was Thackeray!” He tore it out, crumpled it into a ball, and tossed it into the street, stomping away.
The children watched their father’s autograph be further insulted by the wheel of an omnibus clip-clopping past. Dickens narrowed his eyes. “Well. How sad Mr. Marley will be when I introduce him in my new number, only to kill him off in the next.” “He should be dead to begin with,” said young Charley. “Dead as a doornail,” said Katey. “So he shall. So he shall.” The matter settled, Dickens turned for home. His children trooped behind in cautious silence. 
“A tree?” demanded Dickens. “Inside the house?” “A Christmas tree. From Germany.” “Have we no trees in England?” “The Queen and Prince Albert insist on it. It’s a new tradition.” “Traditions are not new, Catherine. They are old. And we cannot afford the ones we have!” 
  “Your past is quicker than you are and will catch you soon enough.”
“Writers told what to write. Readers told what to read. People who do whatever you do … told what to do!” Dickens waved his arms like a windmill gone mad. “And once again, everyone making money on me but me!” 
She nodded, her voice quiet as a prayer. “But every book you’ve ever written is a book about Christmas. About the feeling we must have for one another, without which we are lost.”
Ebenezer Scrooge was waking to a new world, a new self, tears still wet on his face. For a miserable bean counter who had long made a business out of men, he now knew that his business was all mankind. Dickens wept and laughed and wept again. 


© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
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The Battle of Life

http://blbooks.blogspot.com/2017/12/the-battle-of-life.html

The Battle of Life. Charles Dickens. 1846. 88 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Once upon a time, it matters little when, and in stalwart England, it matters little where, a fierce battle was fought. It was fought upon a long summer day when the waving grass was green.

Premise/plot: Doctor Jeddler has two daughters, Grace and Marion. Marion, the younger daughter, is engaged to Alfred Heathfield. No one could be happier for the couple than Grace. In fact, Grace talks about Alfred morning, noon, and night. The engagement is to be a long one, of several years. As the time nears for Alfred's return, Marion begins acting strangely. This is about the same time that Michael Warden makes plans to leave the country--due to financial disgrace/ruin. Could these two be in love? Perhaps. One thing is certain, Marion does meet secretly with him before Alfred's return. Clemency Newcome, a servant in the home, witnesses this arrangement.

My thoughts: I loved this one. I at least loved it more than I ever thought possible. Dickens introduces some great characters. Dr. Jeddler has a STRANGE philosophy about the meaning of life. As do some of the other characters in this one. (I can't remember now if it was Snitchey or Craggs that philosophizes. But here is the man's philosophy: "Everything appears to me to be made too easy, now-a-days. It’s the vice of these times. If the world is a joke (I am not prepared to say it isn’t), it ought to be made a very difficult joke to crack. It ought to be as hard a struggle, sir, as possible. That’s the intention. But, it’s being made far too easy. We are oiling the gates of life. They ought to be rusty. We shall have them beginning to turn, soon, with a smooth sound.") I really loved Clemency Newcome and Ben Britain, the two servants. They may be my favorite characters in the novella. I hoped that these two would end up together. I was so SATISFIED when they did.

The relationship between Marion and Grace was interesting and strange. I was certainly fooled by Dickens' presentation of Marion. For most of the novella, Marion is portrayed as being completely disinterested in Alfred and matrimony. Certainly there was not any indication that she's madly in love with him. Grace's crush on Alfred was obvious, and once Marion was out of the picture, it was equally obvious that these two would console each other all the way to the altar. Is it a good sign or a bad one that they choose Marion's birthday to be their wedding day?! Marion's big reveal was surprising--when it came. Is it realistic? Is it romantic? Or is it just all kinds of strange?

It did begin in an odd way, I admit. Several pages spent describing in detail a bloody battlefield.  Centuries later--I'm supposing, though it could just be decades--all traces of the battle, of the blood and gore, are gone. What remains is a village full of life.

 Quotes:
My private opinion is, and I hope you agree with me, that we might get on a great deal better than we do, and might be infinitely more agreeable company than we are.
‘Don’t you know it’s always somebody’s birth-day? Did you never hear how many new performers enter on this — ha! ha! ha! — it’s impossible to speak gravely of it — on this preposterous and ridiculous business called Life, every minute?’
She was about thirty years old, and had a sufficiently plump and cheerful face, though it was twisted up into an odd expression of tightness that made it comical. But, the extraordinary homeliness of her gait and manner, would have superseded any face in the world. To say that she had two left legs, and somebody else’s arms, and that all four limbs seemed to be out of joint, and to start from perfectly wrong places when they were set in motion, is to offer the mildest outline of the reality. To say that she was perfectly content and satisfied with these arrangements, and regarded them as being no business of hers, and that she took her arms and legs as they came, and allowed them to dispose of themselves just as it happened, is to render faint justice to her equanimity. Her dress was a prodigious pair of self-willed shoes, that never wanted to go where her feet went; blue stockings; a printed gown of many colours, and the most hideous pattern procurable for money; and a white apron. She always wore short sleeves, and always had, by some accident, grazed elbows, in which she took so lively an interest, that she was continually trying to turn them round and get impossible views of them.
Such, in outward form and garb, was Clemency Newcome; who was supposed to have unconsciously originated a corruption of her own Christian name, from Clementina (but nobody knew, for the deaf old mother, a very phenomenon of age, whom she had supported almost from a child, was dead, and she had no other relation); who now busied herself in preparing the table, and who stood, at intervals, with her bare red arms crossed, rubbing her grazed elbows with opposite hands, and staring at it very composedly, until she suddenly remembered something else she wanted, and jogged off to fetch it.
‘The combatants are very eager and very bitter in that same battle of Life. There’s a great deal of cutting and slashing, and firing into people’s heads from behind. There is terrible treading down, and trampling on. It is rather a bad business.’ ‘I believe, Mr. Snitchey,’ said Alfred, ‘there are quiet victories and struggles, great sacrifices of self, and noble acts of heroism, in it — even in many of its apparent lightnesses and contradictions -not the less difficult to achieve, because they have no earthly chronicle or audience — done every day in nooks and corners, and in little households, and in men’s and women’s hearts — any one of which might reconcile the sternest man to such a world, and fill him with belief and hope in it, though two-fourths of its people were at war, and another fourth at law; and that’s a bold word.’ 
Snitchey and Craggs were the best friends in the world, and had a real confidence in one another; but Mrs. Snitchey, by a dispensation not uncommon in the affairs of life, was on principle suspicious of Mr. Craggs; and Mrs. Craggs was on principle suspicious of Mr. Snitchey. 
‘What! overcome by a story-book!’ said Doctor Jeddler. ‘Print and paper! Well, well, it’s all one. It’s as rational to make a serious matter of print and paper as of anything else. But, dry your eyes, love, dry your eyes. I dare say the heroine has got home again long ago, and made it up all round — and if she hasn’t, a real home is only four walls; and a fictitious one, mere rags and ink. What’s the matter now?’
‘Lor!’ replied his fair companion, with her favourite twist of her favourite joints. ‘I wish it was me, Britain!’ ‘Wish what was you?’ ‘A-going to be married,’ said Clemency. Benjamin took his pipe out of his mouth and laughed heartily. ‘Yes! you’re a likely subject for that!’ he said. ‘Poor Clem!’ Clemency for her part laughed as heartily as he, and seemed as much amused by the idea. ‘Yes,’ she assented, ‘I’m a likely subject for that; an’t I?’ ‘YOU’LL never be married, you know,’ said Mr. Britain, resuming his pipe. ‘Don’t you think I ever shall though?’ said Clemency, in perfect good faith. Mr. Britain shook his head. ‘Not a chance of it!’ ‘Only think!’ said Clemency. ‘Well! — I suppose you mean to, Britain, one of these days; don’t you?’
‘I can’t help liking you,’ said Mr. Britain; ‘you’re a regular good creature in your way, so shake hands, Clem. Whatever happens, I’ll always take notice of you, and be a friend to you.’ ‘Will you?’ returned Clemency. ‘Well! that’s very good of you.’ ‘Yes, yes,’ said Mr. Britain, giving her his pipe to knock the ashes out of it; ‘I’ll stand by you. Hark! That’s a curious noise!’
A month soon passes, even at its tardiest pace. The month appointed to elapse between that night and the return, was quick of foot, and went by, like a vapour. The day arrived. A raging winter day, that shook the old house, sometimes, as if it shivered in the blast.
We count by changes and events within us. Not by years.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
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Family Tree Reading Challenge

http://blbooks.blogspot.com/2017/12/family-tree-reading-challenge.html

Family Tree Reading Challenge
Host: Becky's Book Reviews (sign up)
January - December 2018
# of books: minimum 3,

Love reading? Love family? Love researching family history? Want a family-friendly reading challenge? 

Goal: To read a book from the birth year of your selected family members. You do not have to mention them by name, unless you want. But do please list the years you'll be reading. You may include yourself in your 'family tree.'

Minimum of three books (and three family members). You can read more, of course.

Sign up by leaving a comment.

What books count towards the reading challenge?
  • Fiction
  • Nonfiction
  • Board books
  • Picture Books
  • Early Readers
  • Early Chapter Books
  • Chapter Books
  • Graphic Novels
  • Middle Grade Books
  • Young Adult Books
  • Adult Books
  • Poetry
  • Short Stories
  • Plays
Is a blog required? Are reviews required? No. If you do blog, I'd love a link to your blog so I can read your reviews and book recommendations. If you review books on GoodReads, leave a link to your profile so I can friend you and follow your reviews!

If you're on twitter, you can contact me @blbooks and talk cats OR books!

You can comment on this post or any challenge-related post to update others on your progress.



© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
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2018 Reading Challenges: Family Tree

http://blbooks.blogspot.com/2017/12/2018-reading-challenges-family-tree.html

Family Tree Reading Challenge
Host: Becky's Book Reviews (sign up)
January - December 2018
# of books: I'm aiming for twelve

The years I'll be reading:

1918
1931
1918
1924
1951
1955
1960
1976
1977
1978
2009
2011

If I finish those:

1949
1953

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
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Week in Review: December 3-9

http://blbooks.blogspot.com/2017/12/week-in-review-december-3-9.html

The Librarian of Auschwitz. Antonio Iturbe. Translated by Lilit Thwaites. 2017. 424 pages. [Source: Library]
Prairie Fires: the American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Caroline Fraser. 2017. 640 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Chimes. Charles Dickens. 1844. 116 pages. [Source: Bought]
The Cricket on the Hearth. Charles Dickens. 1845. 84 pages. [Source: Bought]
Among the Brave. (Shadow Children #5) Margaret Peterson Haddix. 2004. 256 pages. [Source: Library]
Favorite Quotes from A Christmas Carol
Back to the Classics Challenge 2018 

The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABC's (the Hard Way). Patrick McDonnell. 2017. Little, Brown. 48 pages. [Source: Library]
This Is My Book! Mark Pett. 2016. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
Here Comes The Easter Cat. Deborah Underwood. Illustrated by Claudia Rueda.  2014.  80 pages. [Source: Library]
Here Comes Valentine Cat. Deborah Underwood. 2015. 88 pages. [Source: Library]
Here Comes the Tooth Fairy Cat. Deborah Underwood. Illustrated by Claudia Rueda. 2015. 96 pages. [Source: Library]

A Christmas Carol. Charles Dickens. 1843. 96 pages. [Source: Bought]
When Is It Right To Die? A Comforting and Surprising Look at Death and Dying. Joni Eareckson Tada. 1992/2018. Zondervan. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]
52 Little Lessons from A Christmas Carol. Bob Welch. 2015. Thomas Nelson. 224 pages. [Source: Bought]
My Autumn with Psalm 199 #21
My Autumn with Psalm 119 #22
My Autumn with Psalm 119 #23
My Autumn with Psalm 119 #24
Journaling the Spurgeon Bible #4 

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
If you're reading this on a site (other than Becky's Book Reviews or Becky's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Back to the Classics 2018

http://blbooks.blogspot.com/2017/12/back-to-classics-2018.html

Back to the Classics 2018
Host: Books and Chocolate (sign up)
January - December 2018
# of books: 6 - 12

_ 19th century classic
_ 20th century classic
_ classic by a woman author
_ classic in translation
_ children's classic
_ classic crime story
_ classic travel or journey narrative
_ classic with a single-word title
_ classic with a color in the title
_ classic by a new-to-you author
_ a classic that scares you
_ re-read a favorite classic

And here are the categories for the 2018 Back to the Classics Challenge:

1.  A 19th century classic - any book published between 1800 and 1899.


2.  A 20th century classic - any book published between 1900 and 1968. Just like last year, all books MUST have been published at least 50 years ago to qualify. The only exception is books written at least 50 years ago, but published later, such as posthumous publications.


3.  A classic by a woman author


4.  A classic in translation.  Any book originally written published in a language other than your native language. Feel free to read the book in your language or the original language. (You can also read books in translation for any of the other categories). Modern translations are acceptable as long as the original work fits the guidelines for publications as explained in the challenge rules.


5. A children's classic. Indulge your inner child and read that classic that you somehow missed years ago. Short stories are fine, but it must be a complete volume. Picture books don't count!


6.  A classic crime story, fiction or non-fiction. This can be a true crime story, mystery, detective novel, spy novel, etc., as long as a crime is an integral part of the story and it was published at least 50 years ago. Examples include The 39 Steps, Strangers on a Train, In Cold Blood, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, etc.  The Haycraft-Queen Cornerstones list is an excellent source for suggestions. 


7. A classic travel or journey narrative, fiction or non-fiction. A journey should be a major plot point, i.e., The Hobbit, Unbeaten Tracks in Japan, Kon-Tiki, Travels with Charley, etc.

8. A classic with a single-word title. No articles please! Proper names are fine -- Emma, Germinal, Middlemarch, Kidnapped, etc.).


9. A classic with a color in the title. The Woman in White; Anne of Green Gables; The Red and the Black, and so on.


10. A classic by an author that's new to you. Choose an author you've never read before.


11. A classic that scares you. Is there a classic you've been putting off forever? A really long book which intimidates you because of its sheer length? Now's the time to read it, and hopefully you'll be pleasantly surprised!


12. Re-read a favorite classic. Like me, you probably have a lot of favorites -- choose one and read it again, then tell us why you love it so much. 


© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
If you're reading this on a site (other than Becky's Book Reviews or Becky's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

The Cricket on the Hearth

http://blbooks.blogspot.com/2017/12/the-cricket-on-hearth.html

The Cricket on the Hearth. Charles Dickens. 1845. 84 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: The kettle began it! Don’t tell me what Mrs. Peerybingle said. I know better. Mrs. Peerybingle may leave it on record to the end of time that she couldn’t say which of them began it; but, I say the kettle did. I ought to know, I hope! The kettle began it, full five minutes by the little waxy-faced Dutch clock in the corner, before the Cricket uttered a chirp.

Premise/plot: This novella doesn't have chapters, it has chirps. Readers meet a happily married couple with a baby: Mr. and Mrs. Peerybingle. (His name is John. Her name is Dot). The couple's wedding anniversary is nearing, and an acquaintance of theirs is soon to be wed. But Tackleton, the groom-to-be is nothing like John. And the bride-to-be, May, is not in love. Tackleton knows this, and is rather proud. He feels Mr. Peerybingle is foolish for loving his wife as he does, and plants seeds of doubt in his mind. Does Dot really truly love him? Or is he blinded by his own love for her? Could his wife even be carrying on with another man behind his back?!

Mr. Peerybingle is not quite as bad as Othello in terms of jealousy. But is that because he's got a Cricket in the hearth watching over his home and preventing the worst of it?! Perhaps. His wife is keeping a secret from her husband, but, it's a good secret. One concerning a friend. She isn't the only one with a secret that's a burden.

Caleb Plummer has been lying to his blind daughter, Bertha, for YEARS. The biggest lie of all is that the man who employs them to make toys--Tackleton--is a kind, good, pleasant man. The problem is, he's mean, inconsiderate, and extremely UNpleasant. She's fallen in love with a lie--a man of her father's creation. Her heart is breaking that Tackleton is marrying.

With Dot's help, Caleb is going to tell her the truth. John will learn the truth as well; some details come from his wife, but others come from the Cricket and the household fairies.

Will May and Tackleton marry? Or does the day hold surprises of its own?

My thoughts: This was my first time to read The Cricket on the Hearth. It had its worrying moments. In the hand of Thomas Hardy, I don't think I could have gone on. John has to walk down a dark valley and be sorely tempted. This one could easily have gone the way of Othello. Fortunately, Dickens did not go that route! Perhaps because this one provides such a contrast of human emotion, the happy ending was all the more joyful.

Favorite quotes:
  • The kettle had had the last of its solo performance. It persevered with undiminished ardour; but the Cricket took first fiddle and kept it. Good Heaven, how it chirped! Its shrill, sharp, piercing voice resounded through the house, and seemed to twinkle in the outer darkness like a star. There was an indescribable little trill and tremble in it, at its loudest, which suggested its being carried off its legs, and made to leap again, by its own intense enthusiasm. Yet they went very well together, the Cricket and the kettle. The burden of the song was still the same; and louder, louder, louder still, they sang it in their emulation.
  • When she came back, and sat down in her former seat, the Cricket and the kettle were still keeping it up, with a perfect fury of competition. The kettle’s weak side clearly being, that he didn’t know when he was beat. There was all the excitement of a race about it. Chirp, chirp, chirp! Cricket a mile ahead. Hum, hum, hum — m — m! Kettle making play in the distance, like a great top. Chirp, chirp, chirp! Cricket round the corner. Hum, hum, hum — m — m! Kettle sticking to him in his own way; no idea of giving in. Chirp, chirp, chirp! Cricket fresher than ever. Hum, hum, hum — m — m! Kettle slow and steady. Chirp, chirp, chirp! Cricket going in to finish him. Hum, hum, hum — m — m! Kettle not to be finished. Until at last they got so jumbled together, in the hurry-skurry, helter-skelter, of the match, that whether the kettle chirped and the Cricket hummed, or the Cricket chirped and the kettle hummed, or they both chirped and both hummed, it would have taken a clearer head than yours or mine to have decided with anything like certainty.
  • Tackleton the Toy-merchant, pretty generally known as Gruff and Tackleton — for that was the firm, though Gruff had been bought out long ago; only leaving his name, and as some said his nature, according to its Dictionary meaning, in the business — Tackleton the Toy-merchant, was a man whose vocation had been quite misunderstood by his Parents and Guardians.
  • ‘We have arranged to keep our Wedding-Day (as far as that goes) at home,’ said John. ‘We have made the promise to ourselves these six months. We think, you see, that home —’ ‘Bah! what’s home?’ cried Tackleton. ‘Four walls and a ceiling! (why don’t you kill that Cricket? I would! I always do. I hate their noise.) There are four walls and a ceiling at my house. Come to me!’ ‘You kill your Crickets, eh?’ said John. ‘Scrunch ’em, sir,’ returned the other, setting his heel heavily on the floor. ‘You’ll say you’ll come? it’s as much your interest as mine, you know, that the women should persuade each other that they’re quiet and contented, and couldn’t be better off. I know their way. Whatever one woman says, another woman is determined to clinch, always. There’s that spirit of emulation among ’em, sir, that if your wife says to my wife, “I’m the happiest woman in the world, and mine’s the best husband in the world, and I dote on him,” my wife will say the same to yours, or more, and half believe it.’
  • Caleb and his daughter were at work together in their usual working-room, which served them for their ordinary living-room as well; and a strange place it was. There were houses in it, finished and unfinished, for Dolls of all stations in life. Suburban tenements for Dolls of moderate means; kitchens and single apartments for Dolls of the lower classes; capital town residences for Dolls of high estate. Some of these establishments were already furnished according to estimate, with a view to the convenience of Dolls of limited income; others could be fitted on the most expensive scale, at a moment’s notice, from whole shelves of chairs and tables, sofas, bedsteads, and upholstery. The nobility and gentry, and public in general, for whose accommodation these tenements were designed, lay, here and there, in baskets, staring straight up at the ceiling; but, in denoting their degrees in society, and confining them to their respective stations (which experience shows to be lamentably difficult in real life), the makers of these Dolls had far improved on Nature, who is often froward and perverse; for, they, not resting on such arbitrary marks as satin, cotton-print, and bits of rag, had superadded striking personal differences which allowed of no mistake.
  • When, suddenly, the struggling fire illumined the whole chimney with a glow of light; and the Cricket on the Hearth began to Chirp! No sound he could have heard, no human voice, not even hers, could so have moved and softened him. The artless words in which she had told him of her love for this same Cricket, were once more freshly spoken; her trembling, earnest manner at the moment, was again before him; her pleasant voice — O what a voice it was, for making household music at the fireside of an honest man! — thrilled through and through his better nature, and awoke it into life and action.
  • ‘All things that speak the language of your hearth and home, must plead for her!’ returned the Cricket. ‘For they speak the truth.’
  • Friends, one and all, my house is very lonely to-night. I have not so much as a Cricket on my Hearth. I have scared them all away. Be gracious to me; let me join this happy party!’ He was at home in five minutes. You never saw such a fellow. What HAD he been doing with himself all his life, never to have known, before, his great capacity of being jovial! Or what had the Fairies been doing with him, to have effected such a change!

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
If you're reading this on a site (other than Becky's Book Reviews or Becky's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Prairie Fires

http://blbooks.blogspot.com/2017/12/prairie-fires.html

Prairie Fires: the American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Caroline Fraser. 2017. 640 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: On a spring day in April of 1924, Laura Ingalls Wilder, a fifty-seven-year-old farm wife in the Missouri Ozarks, received a telegram from South Dakota. Her mother, Caroline Ingalls, had just died. Wilder hadn’t seen her for more than twenty years.

Premise/plot: This book examines the life and works of Laura Ingalls Wilder and places both within the context of American history. Fraser writes, "For those of us seeking to understand the settlement of the frontier, she offers a path, perhaps our best path, to the past."

Is it a biography? Yes and no. If it is a biography, it is a biography of both Laura Ingalls Wilder and Rose Wilder Lane. But I'm leaning more towards it being a history book. The book's focus is on the American story; the personal lives of the Ingalls and Wilder families provide an entry point to this bigger story. Politics. Economics. Policies. Personalities.

Close to a third of the book focuses on the written works of Wilder and Lane. The book provides a behind the scenes glimpse into the writing and publishing process. One definitely gets the sense that the books were crafted with intent and purpose to tell a specific story, to impart certain morals and lessons. Fraser writes, "Her story, spanning ninety years, is broader, stranger, and darker than her books, containing whole chapters she could scarcely bear to examine. She hinted as much when she said, in a speech, “All I have told is true but it is not the whole truth.”"

My thoughts: If I have one complaint about the book, it is this: the chapters are LONG. Overall, I enjoyed reading this one. It is a bit on the dry, scholarly side. It is not a straightforward biography. It is anything but concise. IT is packed with details--not just details about the family--but details about the times in which she lived. These historical "asides" aren't really on the side. They are front and center to the book. If you don't love history, then this one probably isn't for you. That being said, I LOVE history.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
If you're reading this on a site (other than Becky's Book Reviews or Becky's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Among the Brave

http://blbooks.blogspot.com/2017/12/among-brave.html

Among the Brave. (Shadow Children #5) Margaret Peterson Haddix. 2004. 256 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Great, Trey thought. I do one brave thing in my entire life, and now it's like, 'Got anything dangerous to do? Send Trey. He can handle it.' Doesn't anyone remember that Cowardice is my middle name?

Premise/plot: Among the Brave is the fifth book in Margaret Pertson Haddix's Shadow Children series. Trey, the narrator, faces great challenges in this one. For Trey, going outside is an act of bravery. So when all of his friends disappear, and the trustworthy adults in his life disappear as well, he's at a loss. He teams up for a while with Luke's brother, Mark. But Mark is CAPTURED leaving Trey on his own to brainstorm a rescue plan. Can Trey find a way to save everyone?

My thoughts: The world Haddix created is turned upside down by revolution. But it's a revolution that won't do third children any favors. Freedom still seems to be an impossible dream. I don't know how Haddix manages to pack so much ACTION into her novels. Usually the more action a book has, the less important character development is. That's so far from the case in this series. The books remain thoughtful--contemplative. Yet there's so much going on! Danger abounds.

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