Nostalgia Reads: Shel Silverstein

If you are a dreamer, come in,
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer . . .
If you’re a pretender, come sit by my fire
For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.
Come in!
Come in!

nos·tal·gia [no-stal-juh] – noun:

A sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.

You may recognize these lines from Shel Silverstein’s classic Where the Sidewalk Ends. One of the clear memories I have of visiting the school library when I was very young is wanting to get my hands on Silverstein’s books. They had all these weird drawings and silly words and so many rhymes! I recall that oftentimes they were checked out, but when they weren’t, my friends and I would gather around and giggle over poem after nonsensical poem.

I’m not really one for poetry, but to this day I enjoy his work and it still makes me chuckle. I have a few of his books in my personal library and they’re wonderful for a trip down memory lane, as well as a few laughs. April was National Poetry Month and the Read to a Child program I volunteer with brought out some of Shel’s books – I was so excited! I snagged A Light in the Attic and was ready to dive in with my little reader, but to my (extreme) disappointment, he wouldn’t even give Shel a chance. No way did he want me to read anything from that book to him!

Like many great writers, it seems that Shel was rejected for years. Many publishers found his book, The Giving Tree, moving and beautiful, but feared it wouldn’t sell because it might be too sad, or it wasn’t quite appropriate for children or adults. I’m so glad that he was finally given the chance to put his work out into the world! I’ve learned from browsing his website that Shel was not only a writer, but a musician as well. He even won a grammy for his album for Where the Sidewalk Ends. I don’t remember if we ever listened to his work when I was in school, but part of me feels like we might have.

Silverstein has inspired countless creations across various forms of media, such as more poetry and art, jewelry with quotes, quilts, writers blocks (yes, actual blocks!), pins, notebooks and even candles! I’m sure I tried my hand at a few silly poems after reading his work as a kid.

I love that Shel’s work can be serious and sad as well as whimsical and humorous – for those kids out there who look for a touch of something different, his work is refreshing. If you’ve never read his work, I highly suggest picking up and of his books, but I personally love these four, as they’re the ones I read most as a child:

Do you have a favorite Silverstein book or poem?

All artwork used is from Shel’s website. For games and puzzles, activity kits, book information, and some tidbits from Shel’s life, I recommend you check it out!

Nostalgia Reads: Goosebumps

nos·tal·gia [no-stal-juh] – noun:

A sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.

Goosebumps:

Small bumps on your skin that are caused by cold, fear, or a sudden feeling of excitement.

As a child, reading R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps novels certainly gave me feelings of fear and excitement. I have no idea what the first Goosebumps novel I read was, but I recall having a pretty sizeable collection. I ate them up – creepy stories about regular kids, around my age, finding all sorts of horrible and magical misadventures. But I was safe at home, living through the adventures without having to run from demonic scarecrows or colorful beasts that wanted to play deadly games.

The internet tells me that in the span of 5 years, 62 Goosebumps books were published, the first being Welcome to the Dead House. I’m not sure how many of the original series I read, but I’m willing to be it was the majority of them.

His books even inspired me to create some fan art. I recall drawing several of the covers (the one with the scarecrow and the one with the snow man come to mind), but this is the only one I still have.

I’m not sure how old I was when I drew this, but honestly, at 28, I’m not sure I could draw a better hammerhead, or a better swimming boy. Not quite as creepy as the original, but I’m still pretty proud. I also loved to write stories as a child and many of them were pretty grim – I can’t help but think I was inspired by Stine.

There was a TV show as well, but I have to say, I never watched it. I was a fan of Are You Afraid of the Dark? and didn’t need a second creepy show. And of course, they recently made a movie about R.L. Stine and his creepy creations, but I haven’t given the film a chance either.

The internet (via Stine’s Twitter account) also tells me that Stine would come up with a book title before devising the plot of a book. I can especially imagine that with Say Cheese and Die – it sounds like something catchy someone thought up and then built a book around. He also says he started writing at the age of nine!

I’d love to dive into the Goosebumps series again and relive the cheesy fun from my childhood. Alas, I don’t own any of the originals anymore, but I do still have a couple books from the Fear Street series (geared more towards teens) and every few years I slip back into their familiar pages and I still enjoy both books.

Were you ever a fan of the Goosebumps series or any of the spin-offs? I recall a few choose your own adventure type books as well…

Nostalgia Reads: Blood and Chocolate

nos·tal·gia [no-stal-juh] – noun:

A sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.

Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause is a book I’ve been reading since middle school when I stumbled upon it in the teen section of my local library. I remember being pulled in first by the title, then by the alluring (and somewhat sexy) cover, and then finally hooked by the blurb – teen werewolves?! I’m in! I’ve always been more of a weregirl than a vampgirl. I loved the story when I was younger and I still love it today!

I totally want this edition.

“Vivian Gandillon relishes the change, the sweet, fierce ache that carries her from girl to wolf. At sixteen, she is beautiful and strong, and all the young wolves are on her tail. But Vivian still grieves for her dead father; her pack remains leaderless and in disarray, and she feels lost in the suburbs of Maryland. She longs for a normal life. But what is normal for a werewolf?

Then Vivian falls in love with a human, a meat-boy. Aiden is kind and gentle, a welcome relief from the squabbling pack. He’s fascinated by magic, and Vivian longs to reveal herself to him. Surely he would understand her and delight in the wonder of her dual nature, not fear her as an ordinary human would.

Vivian’s divided loyalties are strained further when a brutal murder threatens to expose the pack. Moving between two worlds, she does not seem to belong in either. What is she really–human or beast? Which tastes sweeter–blood or chocolate?”

I loved Vivian from the start – she’s vain, confident, utterly beautiful and powerful. But she learns humility throughout the story and that it’s not always easy to stand out from the pack. She struggles to balance the human parts of her life with her wolfish nature and she was somehow relatable to me (even though I was probably ten or eleven when I first read this book.) I still love Vivian now and I also love me some hunky werewolf action too (Gabriel! -swoon-) There’s just something familiar about the characters and I always found it easy to imagine myself in Vivian’s shoes (I mean, who wouldn’t want to be a hot weregirl?) and now I’ve read the book so many times that it all just feels like home.

There is (of course) a movie adaptation out there as well. It came out in 2007 from Lakeshore Entertainment, and I thought about watching it before writing this post, but then I read a description of the movie…

“Vivian is a nineteen-year-old werewolf born in Bucharest, Romania to American parents who then moved back to America. When Vivian was nine years old, her parents and two siblings were killed by two hunters who then proceeded to burn down their house. She then moved back to Bucharest to live with her aunt Astrid, who was the mate of the pack’s leader, Gabriel at that time. To Astrid’s distress, Gabriel left her after seven years in accordance with pack law to choose a new mate. The culmination of another seven years is only a few months away and Gabriel wants the reluctant Vivian as his.

This is not, however, what she wants. She begins a romance with a graphic novelist Aiden who is researching for his latest book. Though he is human, he knows much about her kind, the Loups-Garoux. Their romance is closely watched by her cousin Rafe and his friends. Believing that she is telling him all their secrets- as seen by a drawing he did of her and wolves because he knew her as “The Wolf Girl”- and may grow to be a danger to their pack, Rafe tells Gabriel of them. Gabriel then tells Rafe that Aiden must leave or he must be dealt with.”

This is already so off course from the book that I’m mad. I read the full description on Wikipedia and…just…UGH. They took the character names and the barest bones of the plot (Vivian is a werewolf who falls in love with a human and her pack doesn’t like it) and then ran away to Cheeseville so they could completely ruin a solid YA paranormal romance novel.

Some highlights from Rotten Tomatoes:

“Cheap special effects and banal dialogue rule.”

“Numbingly pedestrian.”

“So little happens in Blood and Chocolate that it almost serves as a cautionary tale about traveling to Romania – even if you’re a werewolf, you’re going to be sullen and boring.”

“There isn’t enough absinthe in all of Romania to obliterate the taste of this clunker.”

Because I’m a sucker for punishment, if it ever makes it to Netflix for free, I’ll watch it, but I won’t give a dime to see one of my favorite young adult books bastardized into a terrible movie.

At any rate, I still love the book, and you might too!

Nostalgia Reads: Island of the Blue Dolphins

nos·tal·gia [no-stal-juh] – noun:

A sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell is a middle grade novel written in 1960. It tells the tale of a young girl, Karana, stranded alone on an island and how she survives for years. The internet tells me it’s based on a true story about Juana Maria, a Native American who lived alone for 18 years on an island during the 19th century.

I’m not sure how young I was when I first read this book, but I would guess I was in fifth or sixth grade. I do remember that Mum recommended this book to me and I did not want to read it. I thought it would be boring. I’m not sure why, but I suspect it was because I was mostly interested in fantasy (and Goosebumps) and had yet to discover the joys of historical fiction. Why would I want to read something real?

But somehow she talked me into reading the book (or perhaps bribed me?) and I loved it. It made me cry then and during my re-read in the last year or so, it made me cry again. I sure do love books that move me to tears!

If you haven’t read this book, and you enjoy strong female characters and survival and natural elements (or if you know a stubborn little middle-schooler who will totally love this book even though they don’t realize it yet), I highly recommend it.

Over at Hello Giggles, Kerry Winfrey wrote a nice little appreciation post and touches on some of the appeal for young readers:

“Did the idea of hunting and gathering present an interesting juxtaposition to our lives full of Lunchables and Dunkaroos? I don’t know, but despite my meager survival skills, I still kind of thought I would rock at making arrowheads and identifying non-poisonous plants.”

Personally, I never had such delusions about my own survival skills – many camping trips with my family proved my inadequacy in the wild outdoors. But this book still appeals to me.

There’s a sequel to the book, Zia, which was published in 1976. Apparently it takes place after Karana is reunited with her people. I haven’t read it and likely won’t. Island of the Blue Dolphins is one of those rare books I’m satisfied with as a stand-alone. Other examples are Ender’s Game and Love Virtually. Sometimes I just like to have some questions unanswered or endings unresolved, you know?

There’s also a film adaptation from 1964, directed by James Clark. Personally I don’t recognize any of the cast: Celia Kaye, Larry Domasin, Ann Daniel, Carlos Romero, George Kennedy and Hal John Norman – but I’m not well versed in older films, so this will surprise no one. I might try to find the film and give that a go, but I have a feeling it just won’t capture the magic or the nostalgia that the novel holds for me.

My face when I realized I had no clue who anyone from the film cast was.

I don’t know if this book has a large following today, but I think if it’s not required reading in school, it should be!

Fabulous fanart by kelleybean86 on DeviantArt.

Any other fans of Karana out there? Let me know!

Nostalgia Watch: Jane Austen Movies

nos·tal·gia [no-stal-juh] – noun:

A sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.

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Long before I was reading Jane Austen’s novels, I was watching films based on them. To be honest, I probably didn’t realize Sense and Sensibility was a novel the first time I watched the movie adaptation starring Alan Rickman. Alan Rickman was the sole reason I borrowed that movie from the library – well, actually, Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet also had something to do with it, but Alan was the key factor in my interest.

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I mean, look at that sultry stare!

This film, directed by Ang Lee was released in 1995 with a screenplay by Emma Thompson (which is news to me!) Apparently it took Thompson five years to adapt the novel for the screen, but I think she did a wonderful job, and her writing won an Oscar, so I can’t be the only one to think that!

But I recall borrowing S&S from the library repeatedly (until some years later when I had my own copy on DVD) for my Alan and regency romance fix. I mean, who doesn’t love a helpless lady being carried through the rain by a hot man?

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Yes, I used to wish that was me.

After this, I moved on to the BBC mini-series of Pride and Prejudice (also from 1995) starring Colin Firth, because in high school my quest for hot (albeit older) British men was (and still is) unstoppable.

However, it turned out that the six part, five and a half hour (probably incredibly faithful) adaptation was not handsome enough to tempt me! *cough* I mean, it was boring. All Firth’s beauty couldn’t get me more than a few hours in. I hadn’t read the book yet and I think that’s part of what failed to keep my interest. I think I’ve attempted to watch it once since that first time and still never finished.

Mr. Darcy is grumpy because I’m missing out on the iconic lake scene, which is most certainly not in Miss Austen’s novel but is most certainly appreciated by female fans. Perhaps this month I’ll actually manage to watch this…

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It was some years later before I started my next round of Austen inspired films. This time, I actually read the book first: Bridget Jones’s Diary. Excellent book, by the way. And wouldn’t you know, the film has a couple of my old favorites, and no strangers to Austen films, Colin Firth and Hugh Grant!

Directed by Sharon Maguire, 2001

This film provided me with a more modern Darcy that I could really get behind. My memory is fuzzy, but I don’t think I’d read Pride and Prejudice yet, but this film did give me a good idea of what the plot contained. Now, having read the book, I know Bridget is not the modern adaptation of Lizzie Bennet, however she’s a more relatable character for viewers than a literal translation of the original.

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Me, in bed, watching Bridget Jones

I’m not sure how I discovered it, but Bride and Prejudice had me instantly interested. Still not sure if I’d read the novel at this point, but who wouldn’t love a Bollywood rendition of the classic?

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I’ll admit, I’ve never see another Bollywood film, so I’m not sure if this is at all true to the genre, but boy is this movie fun. I went right out and bought this on DVD too. This was released in 2004 and I wish I’d been able to see it in theaters.

Bright colors, song and dance, possibly the most obnoxious Mr. Collins type of all time, and another pretty sexy Darcy…what’s not to love?! Seriously, check it out.

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Now, I know I read Pride and Prejudice and solidified my love for Jane Austen before I found another great British min-series – Lost in Austen. This beauty is from 2008 and lets Darcy lovers watch their fantasy unfold when main character Amanda gets the chance to walk right into the world of Pride and Prejudice. She even makes Darcy recreate the infamous lake scene from Colin’s series (and now I’m really wondering why I haven’t dedicated six hours of my life to watching that…)!

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This movie was a fun spin on P&P especially because Amanda doesn’t just magically replace Lizzie, Lizzie jumps at the chance to explore the modern world.

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Next comes the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice which I was late to watch because I’m not a Knightley fan (I just think she’s bland and has a fish mouth, but she gets great roles!) and Darcy wasn’t an old British man. But I have to admit, they did a great job with the adaptation. They even put in a nice kissing in the rain scene (not in the book, but should be) and a kiss at the end as well (also not in the book and really should be!)

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He’s a bit young, but still a decent Darcy

Last, but not least in my Austen related film journey is Austenland – another fun adaptation from 2013. It’s also a book, on my TBR this month, but who knows if I’ll get to it?

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In this film, adorable Keri Russell pays to attend Austenland, a sort of interactive Austen lovers getaway, where you can immerse yourself in the world of her novels. Only Russell doesn’t have the cash that it takes to get the best package, so she’s treated much like one of Austen’s middle class heroines.

There’s plenty of cute guys in it too!

So tell me…

Any films here that you particularly enjoy? Or any cinematic Austen adaptations you think I’m missing out on?

Nostalgia Reads: The Hobbit

nos·tal·gia [no-stal-juh] – noun:

A sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.

What happens when a band of dwarves sets out on a journey to avenge their relatives and regain their mountain hold full of treasure from a fearsome dragon? Well, they need a burglar of course, and the trusty wizard Gandalf knows just who to procure – little Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit living comfortably in his family home, eating eleven square meals a day (plus snacks of course!). Bashful Biblo seems like a hopeless edition to the band of sturdy dwarves, until they start getting into trouble and the only one who can help them is their burglar!

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Now, I’m going to assume most of you have heard of this book (at the very least, because of the recent movie adaptations). It’s a book I make an effort to re-read every year because it’s just such fun to read – and it’s a quick read so I don’t feel guilty about not reading a book I’ve never read before. I do remember reading The Hobbit in fifth grade for a reading assignment (primarily because if I read it and aced the quiz I’d get all the points I needed for that assignment and I wouldn’t have to read any of the other assigned books), but before that, I recall watching the (strange) illustrated movie. Please, someone, tell me you remember this gem:

images from google

Looking back, I can say that this is a somewhat bizarre adaptation considering the mental images I’ve created after reading the book on my own and those that the movie franchise has provided us – especially where Gollum is concerned. I mean, I can sort of understand that maybe all that time at the lake in the cave would give him some amphibian attributes, but I think they lost a little too much of his humanity. That aside, if this movie was on Netflix right now (it’s not – I checked), I would abandon writing this post to watch it. I remember a lot of singing and I was definitely drawn in by Bilbo’s friggin huge eyes.

This film, simply titled The Hobbit, aired in 1977 as a TV special and was directed by Rankin & Bass (where are my Year Without A Santa Claus fans at?). The music in the movie was heavily influenced by the songs Tolkien wrote in the book, though Rankin & Bass did add a completely original song “The Ballad of the Hobbit.” I’ve just found out, it was released on DVD as well, and you can rest assured that I just added it to my Amazon cart!

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The Hobbit was first published in 1937, and in researching this post, I found that Tolkien actually sent the manuscript to some colleagues first. It was one of his colleagues that gave the manuscript to Stanley Unwin, the head of publishing house George Allen and Unwin. Stanley had his ten-year-old son read and review the manuscript, since he was the target audience. The boy’s positive review was what led to the publisher’s decision to print the book! The book was an immediate success and I would say, still is a large success – it has been translated into over 40 languages and nominated for a few awards and has won the International Fantasy Award and the Keith Barker Millennium Book Award. Have I heard of either of these awards? No, but I still felt it worth mentioning.

After first reading the book for school (I did get full points on that quiz, by the way), I can’t say that my love for the book was immediate. I do remember being surprised that I enjoyed it, but also thinking that maybe there was more going on that I just wasn’t picking up on. I’m not sure how many years passed before I read the book again, but I know since then I’ve read the book at least six or seven times (probably more – wishing I’d started tracking my reading habits many years earlier!) and each time I read it, I enjoy it even more. Those of you who like to re-read books will understand when I say that for every re-read, I pick up on some new little tidbit or detail that I’ve never noticed before.

Now, my hobbitlove is strong and I especially enjoy reading the book aloud (even if I’m only reading to myself), and while there are certainly more hardcore Tolkien fans than me (confession: this is the only one of his books I’ve read! Don’t kill me), I don’t think you’re ever too old (or young, probably) to give this book a chance. It’s less daunting than the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and while it doesn’t delve too far into the history and the land of Middle Earth, it’s an excellent primer. I don’t see what’s not to love about Bilbo! He’s tiny, charming, clever, and like myself enjoys order and routine but secretly craves adventure.

Clearly I’m not alone considering the various movies (like the ridiculous three-movie adaptation of The Hobbit) and merchandise made from The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Not to mention, the immense fandom, from cosplayers to fanfic writers and let’s not forget those who learned Elvish!

art by victorior

I’m not exactly sure when it happened, but at some point, there was more than one edition of The Hobbit in my personal library. And so, like Smaug with his dwarven gold, I began my Hobbit hoard. It feels like my love for the book grows more each year, and because of that (and also because I’m a certified book hoarder), I now have 11 copies of The Hobbit and 3 full sets of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Some have colored illustrations, some black and white and I’m pretty sure at least one of them has no illustrations at all (sadness!) Hopefully someday my mum will let me adopt her editions from the 70s….I’d like to get my hands on an annotated edition too.

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Another little tidbit I found in my internet wanderings was that Maurice Sendak (of Where the Wild Things Are fame) could have had a shot at doing some illustrations for The Hobbit! How fantastic would that have been? Sadly, when Tolkien asked Sendak for a few samples, Sendak’s work was mislabeled by the editor and when Tolkien saw wood elves labeled as hobbits, he felt that Sendak didn’t read his work carefully enough. Before the two could meet in person and clear up the misunderstanding, Sendak ended up having his first heart attack and the two never broached the subject again.

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I can only imagine what an excellent edition that would make – especially if the illustrations were in full color! I almost wished I hadn’t come across this information, because now I’ll just lament not being able to own an edition that doesn’t exist.

So tell me, have you read The Hobbit? Do you share my unbridled hobbitlove? If you haven’t read it yet, why not? Are you wondering why I didn’t talk about the recent movie adaptations? It’s because I think they’re garbage! (Though Bannister Crumblebench did a great voice for Smaug.) Care to debate this? Hit me up in the comments!

Nostalgia Reads: Blood and Chocolate

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nos·tal·gia [no-stal-juh] – noun:
A sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.

This month I picked a book that I’ve been reading since middle school and still reread now and then – Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause. I love this book now as much as I did as a child. It’s a paranormal romance (not that I knew anything about genres when I discovered this book) about Vivian, a teenage werewolf struggling to fit in amongst her pack and her human classmates. There’s trouble brewing among her pack and they desperately need a new leader, after the death of their old one.

I remember first discovering this book at the library, and the title and cover drew me in. I’m pretty sure I checked this book out multiple times before buying my own copy – it was love at first read. Since then I’ve read this book more times than I can count. I’m pretty sure I’ve read it more times than I’ve read The Hobbit and Pride and Prejudice combined.

Believe it or not, I’ve never read anything else by Klause, though I do own another book by her. I just love Blood and Chocolate so much (too much?) that I’ve never wanted to move past it. Vivian can be a bit of a brat, but she’s also fierce and remains true to herself, even if it means feeling like an outcast in her own family. Not to mention, there’s a hot werewolf, Gabriel – who doesn’t love that?!

~

Anyone else read Blood and Chocolate? Or have you read another book from Klause that you liked?

Nostalgia Reads: Holiday Stories

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nos·tal·gia [no-stal-juh] – noun:
A sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.

Since it’s December I wanted to do a sort of holiday post – in reviewing my bookshelf, I realized there’s a lack of holiday themed books, but I found a few cuties from my childhood to reminisce about.

First off, there’s My Special Christmas, which is a personalized Christmas story, so one of the main characters of the story is me!

20141223_192806This is one of two books I had as a kid that had my name in it – I’m not sure where my family purchased them from, but I remember being excited that a book I was reading had my name in it. This one sends the reader on a special mission by Santa and his elves to travel around the world and collect letters. In the end they spell out ‘peace’ and that’s Santa’s Christmas wish to everyone around the world. According to the end of the book, it was the best Christmas I ever had.

Next up is Santa’s Secret Helper. To be honest, I don’t remember when or how I received this, but it wasn’t as a young kid. I’m pretty sure it was a gift given to me because of the wonderful art style.

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In this story, Mrs. Clause decides to help Santa with delivering all the presents and enjoys her trip around the world. The art style is loose, with a hand painted look and it’s very pretty. One of the reasons I love children’s books is because of the artwork you can find.

I vaguely remember watching the Heathcliff cartoon as a child – not sure why I still have this book honestly, but it’s cute so why throw it out?

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In Heathclliff’s Night Before Christmas, Heathcliff basically ruins things on Christmas Eve because he eats all the snacks they left for Santa and the family is worried he won’t show up. He leaves the house, feeling bad, and stumbles upon a bag of Santa’s toys – he’s able to catch Santa before he leaves, and as a reward for rescuing the toys, Santa lets Heathcliff tag along with him. In the end, Heathcliff’s family gets their presents and everyone is happy. Totally cheesy.

Last up, I have one of my favorite children’s books, But No Elephants. It’s really not a Christmas book, but part of it takes place in winter, so it counts.

20141223_192759Essentially, little old Tidly lives alone, until a traveling pet salesman stops by and sells her a canary. This is great, Tildy is just adamant that she won’t buy an elephant. The salesman comes back repeatedly, selling her a beaver, turtle, and woodpecker, all of which help her around the house. Finally he comes back with his last pet, an elephant, which of course, Tildy doesn’t want. She refuses to buy him, but the salesman leaves him behind and winter comes with the poor elephant still outside. Eventually Tildy takes him in and he wrecks everything by breaking through the floor and eating all the food. Everyone is pissed and they think they’re going to die in this harsh winter, but the elephant saves the day by walking them all the way to a tropical paradise (with other elephants!) and then everyone loves him.

It sounds ridiculous, but seriously, it’s an awesome book. In fact, it’s here on Amazon.

~

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season, whatever you celebrate, or just a nice winter if you don’t celebrate anything! I’d love to hear about any books you enjoyed reading as a child.

 

 

Nostalgia Reads: The Witch of Blackbird Pond

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nos·tal·gia [no-stal-juh] – noun:
A sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.

I’ll be honest, I have a lot of favorite books (what bibliophile doesn’t!?) and The Witch of Blackbird Pond is one of them. This is another example of a book I enjoyed when I read it in middle school, high school, college, and now, as an dare I say it? adult.

Blurb from Amazon:

Sixteen-year-old Kit Tyler is marked by suspicion and disapproval from the moment she arrives on the unfamiliar shores of colonial Connecticut in 1687. Alone and desperate, she has been forced to leave her beloved home on the island of Barbados and join a family she has never met. Torn between her quest for belonging and her desire to be true to herself, Kit struggles to survive in a hostile place. Just when it seems she must give up, she finds a kindred spirit. But Kit’s friendship with Hannah Tupper, believed by the colonists to be a witch, proves more taboo than she could have imagined and ultimately forces Kit to choose between her heart and her duty.

For a book that was published in 1958 (and sold, hardcover, for $3.25!!!), it captivates me the same way modern middle-grade fiction does, and I can’t always say that about older books (ie: some classics). My aunt gave me her copy, which was given to her by another family member, and I remember first being excited that it had the old book smell. I also loved the old library plastic that covered the book jacket – I loved to hear that crinkle. Basically this book was physically appealing. Then I actually read it and loved it – I’ve always been into the supernatural, but this book isn’t a traditional spooky witch story. It deals with the more realistic approach to witchcraft that many faced in the 1600s. But it’s not a violent or scary book; it’s appropriate for younger readers (Amazon says 9-12, but I’d say it’s relevant to teenagers as well).

Kit is a straightforward and honest character. She’s taken in by distant family and has a hard time adjusting to her new life, but she gives it her best shot, all while trying to remain true to who she is. She doesn’t always win her battles, but I think her character developed nicely; She was willing to compromise or make a sacrifice even if she didn’t want to, and I think she sets a good example. Also this book made me want to visit Barbados, where Kit was from. It’s always a pleasure to re-read this book and I love my edition of the cover too – so far it’s the prettiest I’ve seen.

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Nostalgia Reads: Ender’s Game

 

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nos·tal·gia [no-stal-juh] – noun:
A sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.

I read Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card sometime around fourth or fifth grade and loved it. Since then I’ve read it once or twice more and I love it just as much, if not more, because I’m older and I can understand the depth of this novel.

Blurb from Amazon:

In order to develop a secure defense against a hostile alien race’s next attack, government agencies breed child geniuses and train them as soldiers. A brilliant young boy, Andrew “Ender” Wiggin lives with his kind but distant parents, his sadistic brother Peter, and the person he loves more than anyone else, his sister Valentine. Peter and Valentine were candidates for the soldier-training program but didn’t make the cut–young Ender is the Wiggin drafted to the orbiting Battle School for rigorous military training. Ender’s skills make him a leader in school and respected in the Battle Room, where children play at mock battles in zero gravity. Yet growing up in an artificial community of young soldiers, Ender suffers greatly from isolation, rivalry from his peers, pressure from the adult teachers, and an unsettling fear of the alien invaders. Is Ender the general Earth needs?

I know that Card’s personal opinions have caused some controversy, but I’m in love with his writing. Ender’s Game was first published in 1985 and has several sequels, though I’ve never read them. Personally, I’m happy with the way Ender’s Game ends and I’ve never felt like I needed to read any more in that universe.

When I was younger, I didn’t read as much sci-fi as I do now, and this may well have been the first sci-fi novel I ever read. I was fascinated with the world Card created, and though it was sometimes scary, I would have loved to explore the training station Ender lived in. I was primarily accustomed to fantasy novels with castles and knights, or the more comedic children’s books, like Sideways Stories from Wayside School.  The new territory that Card presented to me was absorbing and if I remember correctly, I did really well on the book report/test for this book in school. As an adult, I’m impressed with the way that Card wrote about Ender and his experience – the loneliness and isolation he felt, mixed with his determination to be a great leader is very compelling.

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Anyone else an Ender fan? Have you read the whole series?  I’ve no interest in the movie. My love for the book aside, it just didn’t look like a good film.