Saturday, April 30, 2016

And now to Minnesota!

by Laura Ingalls Wilder
In the fourth installment of Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House series, 
Ma, Pa, Mary, Laura, and Carrie end up in Walnut Grove, Minnesota.
And poor Jack! He's stuck, yet again, traveling on foot! :( 
Jack is the family dog who perhaps wishes he could travel with a family 
that believed in letting the canine companion RIDE in the wagon rather than WALK with it!

I'm fairly certain I qualify as the world's worst Read-Along cohost!
Here it is the last day of the month and 
I am just now posting my review! 

I read the book one week ago but had neither the time nor the energy to blog! :(
But, I did JUST make the April deadline! :)

Bex of An Armchair by the Sea is my cohost for this 
Little House Read-Along 2016! (#littlehouseRAL)
Click here to access my Little House Read-Along page which now lists all the review links for each book in one place!
My favorite book of this series thus far has been Farmer Boy, which we read and reviewed just last month (March). 
I guess that proves I am still a 'tom-boy' at heart!
The first house they inhabit in Minnesota happens 
to be a "dugout" which is exactly as it sounds--
literally dug out of a creek bank!
Now that is smart! Talk about 'thermo-efficient'!
It reminded me of our 'dream house'--an Earthship!
Though not all Earthships are underground, the most sustainable style is pretty much a 'dugout' with all glass 
across the front which can be solar collectors.

Ah...maybe in our next lifetime my husband and I will find each other again, when we are much younger and physically able to make the earth-packed tires, etc., ourselves! 
That would be fun! And the design possibilities are endless and so creative and unique! to the Ingalls' 'dugout'...

The book cover on the right shows the dugout,
as does Garth Williams'
illustration to the left.
The big danger here was from the water rising too much and flooding the interior of the house, and/or large animals stepping through the 
turf 'roof'! 
Which did happen! 
Can you imagine? 

Laura is quite sad that Pa had to trade Pet and Patty, and Bunny, the long-eared colt, for the house. Though Pa patiently explains,
"Why, little half-pint. Pet and Patty like to travel. They are little Indian ponies, Laura, and plowing is too hard work for them. They will be much happier traveling out west. 
You wouldn't want to keep them here, breaking their hearts on a plow." (7)
I adore Pa's kindhearted explanations! And that nickname "half-pint" never ceases to make me smile and/or chuckle to myself! As they all sat outside the door of their new home, Ma 
...drew a long breath. "It is all so tame and peaceful," she said. "There will be no wolves or Indians howling tonight. I haven't felt so safe and at rest since I don't know when." 
Pa's slow voice answered, "We're safe enough, all right. Nothing can happen here."
The peaceful colors went all around the rim of the sky. The willows breathed and the water talked to itself in the dusk. The land was dark gray. The sky was light gray and stars prickled through it. (17)
I love those last two lines, describing their surroundings/the landscape. I felt my own heart rate and breathing slow as I read it--just as if I was sitting there with them in that calm peacefulness. But I drastically miss living in the country, being surrounded by nature. :) 

Once Laura confesses her attempt to go to the swimming hole, after being strictly forbidden to ever go there without Pa, Pa must decide upon an appropriate punishment. He finally decided that she must be "watched" all the next day to determine whether she was capable of ever being trusted again. Since he had to work, Ma agreed to do the "watching" and Laura mustn't move out of her mother's line of sight the next day--all day.
 The whole day was gone. Laura had not seen that sunrise, now the shadows of clouds on the prairie. The morning-glories were withered and that day's blue flags were dead. All day Laura had not seen the water running in the creek, the little fishes in it, and the water-bugs skating over it. She was sure that being good could never be as hard as being watched. (36)
Lesson learned! Ma accompanied her the next day as they retraced her steps toward the swimming hole, looking for the badger that had disrupted her progress. They did discover the hole where it evidently made its home, but never did see the animal itself. Badgers have a reputation for not being exactly 'friendly,' so I'd say Laura was fairly lucky overall in this encounter! 

As Laura and Mary tried to reconcile the concept of Santa Claus visiting them throughout the night of Christmas Eve with the fact that the dugout had no chimney for Santa's use. Ma explained, 
"The older you are, the more you know about Santa Claus," she said. "You are so big now, you know he can't be just one man, don't you? You know he is everywhere on Christmas Eve. He is in the Big Woods, and in Indian Territory, and far away in New York State, and here. He comes down all the chimneys at the same time. You know that, don't you?"

Then Ma told them something else about Santa Claus. He was everywhere, and besides that, he was all the time. Whenever anyone was unselfish, that was Santa Claus. 
Christmas Eve was the time when everybody was unselfish. On that one night, Santa Claus was everywhere, because everybody, all together, stopped being selfish and wanted other people to be happy. And in the morning you saw what that had done.
"If everybody wanted everybody else to be happy, all the time, then would it be Christmas all the time?" Laura asked, and Ma said, "Yes, Laura." (85-86)
And it was this information that convinced both Laura and Mary to wish for something as seemingly mundane and "every day" as horses so that Pa would be able to plant wheat and make money. I cannot remember ever reading a better, more 'rational'/moralistic/optimistic explanation of the concept of 'Santa Claus.' Wish I had read this book prior to raising my own children! I would have had a ready explanation for them! :) 
Pa had tuned his fiddle and now he set it against his shoulder. Overhead the wind went wailing lonely in the cold dark. But in the dugout everything was snug and cosy. 
Bits of fire-light came through the seams of the stove and twinkled on Ma's steel knitting needles and tried to catch Pa's elbow. In the shadows the bow was dancing, on the floor Pa's toe was tapping, and the merry music hid the lonely crying of the wind. (88)

Pa is a driven individual who remains optimistic and is determined to do better for himself, but especially to provide for his family. 
"A dugout is snug and cozy," said Ma. "But I do feel like an animal penned up for the winter."
"Never mind, Caroline," Pa said. "We'll have a good house next year." 
His eyes shone and his voice was like singing. "And good horses, and a buggy to boot! 
I'll take you riding, dressed up in silks! Think, Caroline--this level, rich land, not a stone or a stump to contend with, and only three miles from a railroad! 
We can sell every grain of wheat we raise!" (82)
You could say Pa was a "dreamer." This series has opened my eyes to the fact that pioneers on the frontier were also motivated to better themselves financially, to have and own more and better "things." I just never considered they had much motivation other than 'making it on their own' and settling where no one else, or at least few others, had settled. And the overarching goal of survival, of course! It just rather surprises me to see this concept of 'consumerism' as part of their lives and their motivation to succeed. I think I somehow assumed that was a more recent outgrowth of 'modern life' as we know it. :) 

Once the wheat had pushed through the ground like "a faint green mist on that brown field," Pa surprised them all by returning from town with a load of lumber with which to build their house. He had purchased the lumber on credit and would pay for it when the wheat was harvested and sold...ah, but little did any of them know what would happen to that first wheat crop, and the implications for future growing seasons. As can happen, all did not proceed according to plan once the grasshoppers arrived. :( The concept of "credit" was quite different back then. Whereas in our 'modern world' the Ingalls would have most definitely been foreclosed upon and lost their home, Pa was allowed to pay as he could, even going many months paying little to nothing. I was glad for them! I admit that I was just a tad bit disappointed at all the 'modern' conveniences Pa employed in erecting this newest house in Minnesota. I missed the detailed descriptions of the more primitive implements and processes he had used in building the other homes. Though I was glad the Ingalls had a house with "real glass windows"! 

I might not have believed it possible that grasshoppers could totally decimate all the vegetation if I hadn't seen it happen with my own eyes! Though not with grasshoppers, but with Japanese bean beetles! When my children were young, my ex-husband and I raised a HUGE garden every year! We were living in an area where these little critters could become hoards and multitudes with the correct weather conditions. We were using Sevin the first couple of years to keep insects from eating the garden. (Yes, we were initially that  uninformed and ignorant regarding the use of such chemical applications.) Once they got started, there was no stopping them. One morning we awoke to a faint 'buzzing' noise and when we went outside, we realized that four trees a former owner had planted were literally COVERED in these insects, and roughly 1/4-1/3 of the foliage was already gone! It was absolutely unbelievable! These trees were so tall it was difficult to even get any of this poisonous chemical spray into the upper portions. That was when I researched Japanese bean beetles (long before internet access) and discovered a relatively new invention of pheromone traps. This proved the only true method of controlling these voracious "beasts"! Though collecting and burning those traps (All four of them were totally full at least once a day for the first 10 days!) was an unpleasant task, to say the least! We had at least learned our lesson. While these topical chemicals sound so efficient and effective, in reality, they only keep the insects moving on to other plants, in a never-ending cycle that can culminate in mass destruction! Pheromone traps had a constant presence in our yard/garden area each growing season thereafter! Problem solved. :) I could relate to the Ingalls as they battled these insects, though I could only imagine walking on a carpet of grasshoppers in every inch of land! Yuck! But I don't believe anything existed which could have been used to prevent this particular disaster. :( 

And it wasn't just grasshoppers! There were plenty of other dangers present in this environment! Laura fell off the board across the stream when the water was running high and the current was strong, and was barely able to save herself by clinging to the board and eventually pulling herself out of the water! I admit my heart was pounding as I read this scene! Even though I KNOW Laura survived! That thought never crossed my mind, I was so immersed in her immediate danger! Badgers were perhaps the least of it! And they had to fight a prairie fire to save their homestead. If not for the help of their neighbor, Mr. Nelson, their homestead might have 'gone up in smoke'!
When he had gone away [Ma] said, "There is nothing in the world so good as good neighbors." (275)
This was especially true since poor Almonzo had to travel hundreds of miles and be gone many months to find work due to the nonexistent wheat crops. This left Ma and the children to manage on their own! 

The water seemed to offer endless challenges to Laura, who came out after wading and swimming one day to discover "bloodsuckers"/leeches attached to her. Though this petrified her, it played to her advantage when she determinedly got back at Nellie. Yes, we meet Nellie Oleson in this book! Nellie must have been a rather miserable old soul in a child's body. Naturally, the Oleson house was unbelievably beautiful to Laura. Although she now had a 'real' house built of sawed lumber with 'real' glass windows, the Oleson's house was decorated and furnished much more lavishly than any Laura had ever seen! And Nellie had such beautiful dolls, so much fancier than Laura's own rag doll or the paper dolls with which they played. (I had kinda forgotten about paper dolls! I had some, too!) Though Nellie was anxious to "show off" her "china" and "wax" dolls to all the other little girls, she was furious when Laura reached out and touched her favorite doll's blue silk dress! She snatched it away.
"Don't you touch her!" Nellie screeched. "You keep your hands off my doll, Laura Ingalls!" 
Laura's face burned hot and the other girls did not know what to do. (166)
I felt so very sorry for Laura! She simply withdrew from the group and sat by herself on a chair. Mrs. Oleson gave her some books to look at and she was enthralled, especially with the one entitled Mother Goose
She had not known there were such wonderful books in the world. On every page of that book there was a picture and a rhyme. Laura could read some of them. She forgot all about the party. (167)
Yipes! This sounded just like something I would do. Though as a 7-year-old child, I might have wrestled Nellie to the ground until she said "uncle" as I had done with a fellow kindergartner at the age of 5! :) I can remember as a teenager being invited to a birthday party by the "popular" (and I thought 'sophisticated') girls in my high school. My mother was terribly excited since she considered this to be quite a social coup for me. I remember downplaying it and stating that I didn't know what to expect but doubted it would be much fun. I was back home within 45 minutes. (That included the 10-minute drive to the girl's house.) Mother was shocked, asking me what had happened. I simply replied that after 20-30 minutes of dull and boring conversation (about boys, dating, clothes, and gossip about others) I decided I would be much happier at home reading, sewing, or just listening to music! I'm pretty sure mother dropped any social ambitions she might have held for me in the future at that point. :) So, yeah, I could relate to Laura's withdrawal from the party. (For some reason, this group kept asking me to their get-togethers several more times and I kept making excuses until they finally quit. Sheesh!) 

It wasn't until Ma reciprocated by having all the little girls out to the Ingall's house for a fancy party that Laura was able to exact revenge upon Nellie. And did she ever! Let's just say that once some of the girls, including Nellie had decided to hold up their dresses and wade out into the creek, Nellie got a surprise after coming out and seeing "bloodsuckers" on her legs! Of course, Laura had been 'guiding' the girls into certain areas of the water... ;) It wasn't until Mary threatened to tell Ma what she had done that Laura finally began pulling them off Nellie! Before that she was too busy rolling around on the ground laughing at and making fun of her "dancing around"! 

I wondered if Ma was aware of the irony of her serving "vanity" cakes which were 
"...not sweet. But they were rich and crisp, and hollow inside. Each one was like a great bubble. 
The crisp bits of it melted on the tongue." (175)
This description had me saying "yum" to myself! Ma said they were called "vanity cakes" 
"Because they are all puffed up, like vanity, with nothing solid inside." (176)
Hmmm...wonder if she had anyone specific in mind. :)

Being only a couple of miles from town, Ma and Pa take the girls to church regularly and a preacher from the East travels out to preach one Sunday per month. He decorated a Christmas tree in the church with donated items from families back East and distributed those items to the church attendees. Through this the children each received several presents including candy, mittens, and a rag doll with a china head for Carrie. Then the best gift of all was a fur cape and muff for Laura. As soon as she saw it on the tree she wanted it, especially since Nellie had a fur cape. Laura magnanimously wished Nellie a "Merry Christmas" as they exited the church.
No wickedness boiled up in Laura now; she only felt a little bit of mean gladness...
Her cape was prettier than Nellie's, and Nellie had no muff. (158)
Ah, a bit of the 'green monster' for Laura! :)

The last bit of disaster was a blizzard. These storms could blow up very unexpectedly (No weather reports to listen to or watch back then!). An unprepared person could very easily perish. Luckily, though Pa got caught on foot between town and home, as he kept walking, he inadvertently dropped through a snow drift that provided shelter from the cold wind and was able to last until the wind died down enough he could dig his way out and continue toward home, which was much closer than he thought it might be. 

One bit of simplistic tool creation and usage was the fish trap Pa made. Though I searched, I was unable to find the illustration from the book. It was basically a "skeleton box":
It was a long, narrow box without a top, and Pa left wide cracks between the strips of wood...
"The fish will come over the falls into the trap, and the little ones will go out through the cracks, but the big ones can't. They can't climb back up the falls. So they'll have to stay swimming in the box until I come and take them out." (136)
Very smart! I can appreciate his ingenuity and know-how!

I did feel very sorry for Laura when Ma gave Charlotte away to another little girl. Just like that! Just gave her away as if she had the right to do so! I was a bit upset with Ma over that. And although Laura is eventually reunited with Charlotte, Ma had to rebuild the doll as it was quite damaged. I could understand Laura's anger and then disappointment. 

Pa's reference to Laura as "little half-pint of sweet cider" is adorable and is one of my favorite parts of this whole series!
I have droned on and on, but this book offered so much material! 

Have you read this one? Or any of this series?
What is your favorite? Or which book are you most interested in reading?
We would love to hear your thoughts!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Emil and the Detectives--classic children's literature!

Emil and the Detectives by Erich Kästner
Illustrated by Walter Trier
What a delightful read! To think this was published in 1929!
I could find no acknowledgement of the translator, but you can read of the history of this book in the Wikipedia article devoted strictly to it
This book was the only one of his pre-1945 books to escape the Nazi censors.
According to Wikipedia, 
The most unusual aspect of the novel, compared to existing children's literature at the time, 
was that it was realistically set in a contemporary Berlin peopled 
with some fairly rough characters, not in a sanitized fantasy world; 
also that it refrained from obvious moralizing, letting the characters' deeds speak for themselves. 
I hadn't really put this into that historical context of children's literature, 
but it truly is unique in these respects. 
Amanda of Simpler Pastimes is hosting a Read-Along! Here is her review!

Emil's mother is a widow, working as a hairdresser from her home, to support herself and her young son, making enough to send him to school, but not much more than needed to cover living expenses and school fees. I love how Kästner depicts this as Emil and 'the Professor' get to know one another:
'By the way, is your mother very strict,' the boy from Berlin asked. 
'My mother?' said Emil. 'Not at all. She lets me do everything. 
But I don't want to do everything. Do you understand?'
'No,' the Professor declared, 'I don't understand.' 
'No? Well, listen to me. Are you very rich?'
'I don't know. We don't talk about money much at home.'
'Then I think you must have plenty of money if you don't talk about it much.'
The Professor was thoughtful for a moment and then he said: 'That's very possible.'
'My mother and I talk about money often. Because we have so little.' (113-114)
The truth of this statement struck me. Money has always been a topic of discussion in my household, since there was never an abundance. (Though I have always had a roof over my head, plenty to eat, and clothing, for which I am grateful.) :) This is one of the reasons Emil is so motivated to earn the top grades in his class each term, and even when he has permission to stay out playing until after supper, he always arrives home early enough to eat with his mother because "being together is all my mother and I can afford to do." Awwww... Life is very different for the Professor who admits that even if he is home for supper, typically no one else is there as they are all out doing their own thing.
The Professor cleared his throat and said without looking at Emil:
'I suppose your mother and you love each other very much?'
'Yes, very, very much,' Emil answered. (115)
Awwww...and now I feel sorry for the Professor! 

Emil's mother cannot afford to leave and go with Emil to visit her own sister and family in Berlin, but manages to save enough to send him over the holidays, stating: "He's big enough now to look after himself on the journey." Ah, but is he? Perhaps we really shouldn't take candy from strangers, as accepting an offer of chocolate from one of his traveling companions, Grundeis, meant Emil did not suspect this man of any ill intentions. All other passengers exit the car, leaving Emil and Grundeis to themselves. Though Emil's intention is to remain awake while on the train, he succumbs to sleep, awakening just in time to realize the seven pounds with which his mother entrusted him is gone from his pocket. He is panicky, realizing Grundeis must have stolen it while he slept, and frantically looking for the man, whom he sees disembarking from the train! He grabs his suitcase and the flowers for his Grandmother and runs to catch up, hoisting himself onto the same tram as Grundeis just in the nick of time. It is on this tram the boy makes a valuable connection with a very kind and generous person who pays his fare. It is as Emil is 'staking out' Grundeis while he eats at a restaurant that he meets 'motor-horn' boy, Gustav, who immediately becomes interested in helping Emil capture Grundeis. Gustav brings all his influence to bear and gathers about two dozen boys to help them. 

It is amazing the organization these children establish in order to play 'detective' and keep Grundeis under surveillance that evening. And, Emile's cousin, Pony with the nickel-plated bicycle ends up joining in once Emil's note is delivered to her house where his grandmother lives. It was rather cute to see how the boys all doted on her! These children pooled what meager financial resources they had which allowed them to follow Grundeis to a hotel where he registered to spend the night. Then they enlisted the help of the lift-boy, with Gustav using a spare uniform to spy in the hotel, verifying his room number, etc. Knowing that Grundeis has a wake-up call scheduled for 8AM the next day, the boys all make plans to stalk him... By the time Grundeis is awake and looks out the window, 
...he noticed how many children there were in the street below. 
At least two dozen boys were playing football in the Square. 
Another group of boys stood in Kleist Street. 
And there were children at the entrance to the underground station. 
'The schools must be having a holiday,' he grumbled with irritation... (124)
Hah! Little did he realize...just what awaited him and how much trouble they would cause. 
 As soon as the man                                                      stepped out the hotel door,                                                all these children managed to                                      converge upon him,                                              impeding his progress.                                                    His undoing was when he                                      entered a bank,                                                          hoping to throw them off,                                            then asking for change for 'seven pounds.'                This is when the Professor called out:
'Just a moment! That money has been stolen.'
'Whaaat?' the cashier exclaimed, very much astonished...
'That money does not belong to this gentleman,' the Professor declared. 'He stole it from a friend of mine. He only wants to get change so that nothing can be proved against him.' (137)
Grundeis slaps the Professor who pushes him back, then finally Emil is able to explain that he had pinned the notes to his pocket and the cashier and bank manager can see the pinpricks in the bills and believe him. I was reminded of The Little Rascals as I read the part describing Emil entering the bank with another nine of his new Berlin friends in tow! Meanwhile, 'Herr Grundeis' manages to incriminate himself by lying as to his whereabouts yesterday and the week before, as well as identifying himself using two names other than Grundeis when asked!

Emil is refunded the seven pounds by the Chief Criminal Investigator and finally arrives at his Grandmother's/Aunt's/Uncle's house, where Pony is wearing her mother's apron but "squeaks with delight" to see Emil:
'Careful. My hands are wet, I'm washing the dishes. 
We poor longsuffering women with all our housework!' (168)
I did notice the sexism (Perhaps more satire than not?) in this scene as well as the fact that Emil's new 'friends' were all males, and though Pony brought them food and drink on the morning they awaited Grundeis' departure from the hotel, she was not allowed to be directly involved in the action. But...this was a totally different time and place...and probably a bit unusual for a girl to be given much of a role at all? 

Once this thief's identity is verified, it turns out he was a wanted man and there was a reward for his capture, which is given to Emil! He is a hero! And that stranger on the tram who paid Emil's fare? Turns out he is a reporter and publishes a huge one-page article about the event with the headline:
Can you imagine Frau Tischbein's (his mother's) surprise when she spots this article that includes a picture of her own son while on the train to Berlin? She reads it 11 times during those hours! 

Emil's Aunt bakes her famous apple cake and treats Emil's new friends to a party.
I loved the fact that Emil's Grandmother specifically cites little Tuesday's immense contribution to the cause by 'manning' the telephone in his house to pass along pertinent information in a timely manner and thereby missing out on the fun! 

All's well that end's well, I guess! 
As Emil's Grandmother, Mother, and Aunt all consider the lessons to be learned, Grandmother finally sums it all up: 
'Money should always be sent by money order.' (192)

There is a sequel, Emil and the Three Twins, which was published in 1933.
Though my library system does not have a copy... The hunt is on for a copy! 
Have you read any of Kästner's books?
I probably would have never done so had it not been for finding 
So glad I did! This was a charming read!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday for April 19!

Top Ten Books That Made Me Laugh!
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
I participate when I have time and am interested in the theme.
(And once in awhile I "cheat" and publish a TTT post on Wednesday! Shhhh...don't tell!)
This week it is books that made me laugh!
I love to laugh and I love books, so it stands to reason I would 
doubly love books that make me laugh! :)

I will begin with my go-to series for laughs: Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series!
The most recently published installment in this series is 
Tricky Twenty-TwoA bit of confession regarding my reading of this book last year: I was finishing reading this book the morning after I had purchased it, since I hadn't quite finished it the previous evening. 
I was trying to be very quiet since my husband was still asleep. 
I was in the living room which is next to the bedroom and the door between these two rooms was closed. I was stifling my laughter and  was rather proud of myself for doing so! However, once my husband was awake and I bragged to him about my success...he responded, "No, I did wake up. You were laughing and it did awaken me." 
He had that look as if he had done his own eye roll at my boastful behavior! Hunh...but at least I get points for trying, right? :)

And, as of November 15, 2016, the 23rd book in the series, 
Turbo Twenty-Three, should be released and available! 
Just to demonstrate how obsessive I am about this series, I typically schedule the day following the release of the newest addition to the series off work so I can stay home and read it throughout the day, at my leisure. However, when that isn't possible, I have managed to read it that night after I arrived home with the new release in hand!
I did mention I love to laugh and love books 
and doubly love books that make me laugh, right?!? :)

One of the funniest books I've ever read is 
one I have never seen anyone else give much attention to: 

It was released in 2005 
and I read it years later.

Since I own it, I really should re-read and post a review here. 
It was hysterical! 
But I have always adored Crystal's sense of humor!
I don't believe he never recorded an audiobook of this one, 
but he should have!

In searching for that audiobook, I discovered that he did record an audiobook of his newest release, Still Foolin' 'EmAnd it has won awards! No surprise to me! Must try this one!

Speaking of audiobooks, there are two others that made me laugh all the way to work and back for many hours.

The first of these was 
Let's Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir 
by Jenny Lawson
I listened to the audiobook four times 
before returning it to the library! 
It is so damn funny! 
(Note: if bad words offend you, especially the "F" word, 
this is not the book for you! Otherwise, listen to it!)
One of the funniest stories has to do with the cover image! 
This woman is hysterical and likable, all at the same time!
I truly respect her overcoming all the challenges life has presented to her.

Then I listened to Yes Please by Amy Poehler!

While this one definitely made me laugh out loud,
I found it to be a bit more poignant and serious in a way.
Amy Poehler is someone I would like to know 
well enough to call my friend!
I have much respect for her and all she has 
done for her comedic colleagues.
She seems like a down-to-earth real person. 

Books from two other series that 
always make me laugh:  
Alexander McCall Smith's 
No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency
and the Isabel Dalhousie series 
starting with 
The Sunday Philosophy Club.

The humor in the latter series tends to be a bit more subtle, dryer, while the humor in the 
Ladies' Detective Agency seems more overt.

I also laugh at the Corduroy Mansions books, though the humor in these seem to be a bit dryer than the above two series.

I now own a copy of 44 Scotland Street 
and want to try this series, too!

I do love this man's writing!
I feel as if I am in Botswana or Edinburgh 
while reading the first two series!
He can create "place" so very well!

Another series that made our Borders Book Club all laugh was 
Carolyn Brown's Cadillac, Texas trilogy:
The Blue-Ribbon Jalapeño Society Jubilee,
The Red-Hot Chili Cook-Off, and
The Yellow Rose Beauty Shop.
Don't be fooled by these titles. There are some serious issues covered in these books,
but also tons of humor and hilarity!
Carolyn graciously granted us an interview, too! She is a Tex-Okie hoot!

 I cannot wait to see what others recommend!
Check them out here!
What humorous book would you recommend?
Please share your recommendations in the comments. :)
And happy reading and laughing!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Top Ten books every grandma/grandpa should read!

Welcome to a slight variation on the Top Ten "Tuesday" theme!
It is...Top Ten Tuesday on a Wednesday!!
I had started this post several days ago and wasn't able to finish until now!
(Yes, I'm cheating...shhhhhhh.)
Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
This week's Top Ten is rather open-ended...Top Ten Books Every _______ Should Read!  
Rather than trying to think of a specific genre or sub-genre of books/reading materials, 
I decided to go with something linked to my personal life--being a GRANDMA!!
And just to prove I am a true feminist, am including the males!!
Especially since I have committed to 
And Bex of An Armchair by the Sea and I are cohosting 
a year-long Little House Read-along 2016!
I do always keep a Children's/Juvenile Literature page on my blog for these reviews.
Though I'm sure I'll include some in this posting that I have not yet 
read and reviewed for this blog. Considering the fact that I have now been alive 60+ years and only established this blog June 1, 2013, not even quite 3 years ago,
I have read many more books than have been reviewed here! :) 
I refuse to review from memory only, though I have 
done so on Goodreads for some books, that is not the purpose of this blog.  

Granted, I have yet to make any headway on all my children's literature during this month of April, but I did read and review three excellent children's books in March! 

The Cay by Theodore Taylor

Just as good as I remembered!

And I have Timothy of the Cay 

checked out from the library!

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George

In addition to the original book and two sequels above, 
there is also a picture book! >>>>>>>

And, yes, you guessed correctly! 

I have all of these 
checked out from the library 
and ready to read!

    Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder
My favorite of the Little House books so far! 

You may already be aware that 
are cohosting a Little House Read-Along throughout 2016. 
We read one book per month!
 This is my first time to read these books 
and I adore them! 

Speaking of Read-Alongs 
and Children's books, 
I completed Reeder Reads' 
last year and 
loved all those books 
so very much! 

And, reading these books got me 
so into 
L.M. Montgomery's writing, that I 
now have 
checked out of the library! 
I'm anxious to see how this compares to GG!

I also want to read Before Green Gables
a prequel to Montgomery's series, 
written by Budge Wilson 
and released in 2008. 
Although I adore both of these covers,
how could I resist the one 
with the big orange kitty?!? >>>>>>>>

There is also Emily Trilogy 
and she published many more, 
including short story collections! 
  I just imagine I would enjoy any or all of them!

I typically am not a huge fan of "retellings," 
but was very tempted by Andi Teran's 
Ana of California, released in June 2015. 
This was billed as a modern-day retelling of Anne of Green Gables
though Ana is latina.
Honestly, I didn't expect to enjoy it much, 
but I truly enjoyed it!

One of the most humorous children's books 
I've read in awhile is 
written by Kate DiCamillo 
& illustrated by K.G. Campbell.
This one is a gem 
and the illustrations are wonderful!

What a shock this book was for me!
I really had no idea what to expect
and was so gratified with this
beautiful story of a girl, 
who although her own brother is "different," 
discovers she still has some prejudices 
of her own to overcome!
And she does so...brilliantly!

And for intrigue during war time and occupation, 
as well as a mystery, 
you can't beat this historical fiction book,
Snow Treasure by Marie McSwigan!
I remembered this book so clearly from 
having read it when I was about 10 years old! 
And I still loved it almost 50 years later!
Children love the fact that these children take on a dangerous mission and succeed! 
Right under the Nazis' noses!

More historical fiction for kids!
Gennifer Choldenko is unparalleled 
in writing this genre/sub-genre 
(whatever label you would care to apply), 
in my opinion!
Al Capone Does My Shirts is the first novel in this trilogy.
And really, how can you resist that title?!?
Choldenko draws upon her own personal experiences 
living with her sister for one of these characters, 
and it is so very real! 
When I finished the third book 
I felt as if I'd had to leave 
some great friends 
on that isolated island!

And now for the final suggestion! Isn't this cover gorgeous?!?
I won this beautiful book by participating in a Re-Readathon this last month,
It arrived at work yesterday and went a long way toward cheering me up!
And of course, as soon as I have read it, it gets shipped off to the grandkidlets!

 You might well ask why I feel a grandma or grandpa 
should still be reading children's literature.
Simple. I believe grandparents need to be able to discuss books with their grandchildren just as parents should do with their children! 
And, besides, I still enjoy these books! 
Have you read any children's literature lately?
Do you have some books you would like to re-read from childhood?