I’m spending part of January enthralled with the worlds created by L.M. Montgomery as I have done for the past five years. This year’s selections are the last two of the three Emily books. This quote is from Emily Climbs, and it’s exemplary of what I love best about Montgomery’s stories. It’s Emily’s response in her “Jimmy-book” (journal) to overhearing an uppity Charlottetown woman say that nothing interesting ever happens in sleepy little Blair Water:
“So, Mistress Sawyer, you are vastly mistaken. Besides, apart from all happenings, the folks here are interesting in themselves. I don’t like every one but I find every one interesting–Miss Matty Small, who is forty and wears outrageous colors–she wore an old-rose dress and a scarlet hat to church all last summer–old Uncle Reuben Bascom, who is so lazy that he held an umbrella over himself all one rainy night in bed, when the roof began to leak, rather than get out and move the bed–Elder McCloskey, who thought it wouldn’t do to say ‘pants’ in a story he was telling about a missionary, at prayer-meeting, so always said politely ‘the clothes of his lower parts’–Amasa Derry, who carried off four prizes at the Exhibition last fall, with vegetables he stole from Ronnie Bascom’s field, while Ronnie didn’t get one prize–Jimmy Joe Belle, who came here from Derry Pond yesterday to get some lumber ‘to beeld a henhouse for my leetle dog’–old Luke ELliott, who is such a systematic fiend that he even draws up a schedule of the year on New Year’s day, and charts down all the days he means to get drunk on–and sticks to it: –they’re all interesting and amusing and delightful. (25)
Confession: what caught my attention first about her observations is that obviously in Emily’s mind, forty is o-l-d, as is evidenced by her shock at what Miss Matty Small wore to church all summer. I’ll be forty next month. Sigh.
New Year’s Day finds me still engrossed in book four of The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, The Interrupted Tale, by Maryrose Wood. It’s every bit as charming as the first three, and while I do think de-contextualizing the quote does lessen its effect, I’m sharing one today that made me smile:
But these could hardly be considered normal circumstances, could they? For, in addition to all the other shockingly out-of-character things Miss Penelope Lumley had done recently–telling half-truths to a person in authority, for example, or walking out of a library without a single book in hand, not one!–never before, in the whole history of the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females, had any Swanburne girl spent the night in a hayloft with a pirate, planning an elaborate theft.
Published just this past December, this book is a wonderfully delightful continuation of the series. Highly Recommended.
While I don’t regret a single one of our read-alouds this year, I’m realizing more and more how refreshing it is to read older works–and what a valuable way to spend our time it is. The attention required to process the longer, more complex sentences is reason enough to read them! I don’t have any specific goals for our read-aloud time in 2014, but I want to pick works the girls wouldn’t ordinarily pick up themselves. I’ll likely draw from the Ambleside Online lists, my own Classics Club list, and your suggestions via your Read Aloud Thursday posts.
2013 was the most challenging year of reading aloud I’ve personally had, especially the last 2/3 of the year after Benny’s birth. Balancing the needs of an active (and chatty!) 3 1/2 year old, a baby, and my older girls made me feel like I was losing my mind sometimes, but obviously I survived. ;-) Reading aloud is too important for me to give up, so I press on and try to remain flexible in the way I approach it so that it can continue to be an important part of our days.
If you’re interested in what we’ve read aloud before 2013, here are some lists for you:
This month’s Read Aloud Thursday is coming at what is perhaps an inopportune time for many of you, the day after Christmas. Please, please come back later and leave your links to your own reviews, December posts, or yearly wrap-up posts whenever you have time. The linky should remain open!
I cannot remember where I first read about The Thirteen Days of Christmas by Jenny Overton, but I’m glad I took note of it. I started reading it aloud to my girls last Christmas but finally abandoned it because of our December trip to Disney World. Honestly, though, I think the girls enjoyed it a lot more this year. It’s the very, very English story of the Kitson family–Papa, Annaple, Prudence, James, and Christopher. The younger children and Papa are ready to marry Annaple off because she is such a fuss-budget at home–she’s ready to be mistress of her own home and family. They even have a prospective bridegroom–Francis Vere. However, Francis isn’t quite romantic enough to suit Annaple, so her younger siblings start coaching him on how to win Annaple’s heart. The story takes place (obviously) during the thirteen days of Christmas, so (obviously) Francis is inspired by the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” When Annaple writes him a positively glowing thank you note (because she’s proper that way) for the partridge in a pear tree that he sends her on day one, he goes over the top for day two, and his gifts keep getting more and more . . . more. :-) By the end of the story she ends up with 364 things–various and sundry birds (including hens Francis sailed to France to procure), pipers, drummers, leaping lords, etc. The chaos that ensues is quite entertaining!
Something about this story–whether it’s Annaple’s love of romanceor the actual style of the writing–reminds me just a little it of L.M. Montgomery’s Anne Shirley. I really enjoyed it, and so did my girls. This has been a hectic and stressful season this Christmas, and I have lamented inwardly several times over the fact that I didn’t pull together a Christmas Around the World activity of any kind this year, and then it finally occurred to me that in reading this short chapter book, we actually did do Christmas Around the World! This book gives a very clear picture of what Christmas was like in England, with all its feast days and holy days. (Each chapter is named for a Day of Christmas–St. Nicholas’s Day, St. Thomas of Canterbury’s Day, Churching Day, Adam’s Day, etc.) Much of this was new and very foreign to us, but we just held on for the very enjoyable ride. We give this a very Highly Recommended. It’s perfect for a short Christmas read-aloud! (Just be prepared to sing “The Twelve Days of Christmas” over and over again while reading it! ;-) ) (Oxford UP, 1972)
I first read about Golden Boy on Sherry’s blog and knew I wanted to read it because I find books set in other countries (especially in African countries, for some reason) fascinating. Due to the busy-ness of the holidays and some home-improvement projects we have in the works, it took me a while to read this one. However, that’s certainly not because of the writing–Tara Sullivan has written a beautiful story in Habo’s tale of survival and coming to grips with who he is. Habo is a thirteen year old boy in Tanzania. The youngest son in a family of four children, Habo lives a very small and sheltered life because he has albinism. This is something that makes him unique, of course, but even more than that, it makes him subject to persecution. This, coupled with the threat of sunburn, circumscribes Habo’s life to traveling no further than from his home to his school and back again. His family situation is even compromised because his father abandoned the family after his birth. When his family has to leave their village because their money has run out, Habo learns the harsh truth: some people believe that the body parts of an albino person have good “magic” or luck, so even his very life is threatened. Because he is being hunted and pursued by a man intent on poaching more than elephant ivory, Habo runs to the capital city of Dar Es Salaam where a whole new world eventually opens to him. First, though, he has to learn to trust a blind sculptor who sees Habo for who he is, not what he looks like.
I have such a hard time believing that this book is Tara Sullivan‘s debut novel. She really is a master. I enjoyed not only because it is a very compelling story, but also because Sullivan‘s prose is beautifully descriptive. Here is a passage that showcases her talent:
Mother and I have always been like the two posts of a door frame, unable to move closer or further away, and the emptiness that sits between us is the shape of my missing father. He left right after I was born, when the whispers started that Raziya gave birth to a white son–not a good brown child like the three born before him, but white. White like ugali in the pot; white like the teeth in your face; white like a tourist who isn’t where he should be. Why do I look like this when my parents and my brothers and my sister are a deep, warm brown? I don’t know what to think. But whatever it was that my father thought, he thought it hard enough that he left and he has never come back. (14)
This book reminds me of A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park, mostly, I think, because both involve a boy with a physical characteristic that makes him different who finds himself changed by his relationship to an artist. I love both books, and I give them both a Highly Recommended. Golden Boy has been nominated for a Cybils in the Young Adult Fiction categoy, and while I’m not sure how it will fare against the other, more typical young adult novels, it’s definitely a winner in my book. In fact, there’s nothing much (aside from the obvious issue of violence against Habo) that would prevent me from giving this to Lulu pretty soon to read. It’s not you typical YA fare, that’s for sure.