Friday, September 03, 2010

Book Round Up, Early September 2010

The truth is, I don't read a lot in the summer. I can't say why; I just don't, really. Because I don't, books were off my radar the past few months and what my kids or husband did or didn't read escaped me.

But now, here I am, back in the literary swing of things, so let's talk books.


I have been reading the September issue of Vogue. I know. Pathetic. In my defense, I just finished a really sweet book by Curtiss Anderson called Blueberry Summers, and I just wanted to read something completely unimportant and unnecessary. Plus, I love looking at clothes, and this massive issue is the perfect fix to satisfy that craving!

In history, the kids and I have been studying the French and Indian War and I finally think I am ready to read The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper, which I have always meant to read and never have. After realizing the book that is widely considered Fenimore Cooper's most important work takes place smack dab in the middle of the war, I'm going to take a stab at it and see if it grabs me. Or maybe I'll read it through even if it doesn't. We'll see.


Joe never reads fiction anymore; it's all politics and theology, and right now it's theology. The book is called The is My Body by Hermann Sasse. While I am sure the book is riveting, I'll wait for Joe to give me the Cliff Note's version in lieu of reading it myself.


Madeleine was the lucky recipient of a gazillion books for her birthday and, in true Madeleine fashion, started many of the books simultaneously. Since she started four or five at once she is, as you might suspect, still in the middle of most of them. They are The Wide-Awake Princess by E.D. Baker, Fablehaven by Brandon Mull, Where the Mountain Meets the Mood by Grace Lin, and Molly Moon and the Morphing Mystery by Georgia Byng, which Madeleine says are all really, really fun. For school she's reading Henry Reed, Inc. by Keith Robertson which, yesterday, was pronounced sort of dull, but now, at page eighty-seven, has been deemed a fantastic book.


I don't know how I feel about abridged books. I mean, I know I am supposed to hate them; they take wonderfully written books and dumb them down. Except, I don't always hate them. I sometimes feel they can be a wonderful introduction to a classic story that a child may not yet be ready to read.

I have a story from my childhood that it still so vivid in my mind, it might as well have happened yesterday. I was in my bedroom. For a change, my bedroom was clean. Sunlight was pouring through the windows. I was lying in my bed. Somehow, a graphic version of Jane Eyre had fallen into my hands, and I was reading it. Mom walked by the door of the bedroom and paused. "What are you reading?" she asked, a trace of disgust lacing the question as she saw the cartoonish pictures.

"Jane Eyre," I replied, thinking Mom would be proud I was reading what I vaguely understood was a classic novel.

"But..." she sputtered, "It's... a... cartoon! Don't read it-- you;ll spoil the book!" And, with that, Mom walked away. I am convinced she was certain she had won the exchange.

But she hadn't. You see, I continued to read the graphic novel and after I finished, I could not get my hands on a copy of the real version of Jane Eyre soon enough. I devoured the book, and then I went on to read Wuthering Heights, so I could better understand the difference between the Brontë sisters.

So, yes, I am supposed to hate abridged versions of classic novels. I know that. But I don't as much as a I should, and I really thought the Children's Illustrated Classics edition of The Last of the Mohicans would appeal to Hank. It did; he is devouring the book and I can't help but believe this will gently pave the way to reading Fenimore Cooper's classic at an earlier age than he otherwise might have.

For school Hank is reading Meet George Washington by Joan Heilbroner, and he has loved how this book has overlapped with our history lessons; it's a great easy, short biography of Washington's life.


This girl likes to read anything and everything. Her favorite book right now is A Visitor for Bear by Bonny Becker, but she always enjoys a wide array of books. The Pinkerton books by Steven Kellogg. Ian Falconer's books. You name it, she's game to snuggle in and have it read to her.


As a family we're reading The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. It's been fantastically fun to note the ways the book has differed from the movie we are all familiar with, and we're anxious to find another series we can enjoy as a family. Perhaps this will be the one!

The kids and I are listening to The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare on tape during our school day. This book, while fiction, corresponds to the period we are studying in history, and cuddling on the sofa with blankets and this tape is a nice, quiet way to end our school day. We are all enjoying the story immensely.


Elephantschild said...

"I sometimes feel they (abridged and/or children's versions of books) can be a wonderful introduction to a classic story that a child may not yet be ready to read."

I agree. Just like an adult may read a short summary or outline of a long Dostoevsky novel before plunging into the real thing, a children's version or abridged version (provided it's done with care, of course!) can imprint the shape of a novel into a kid's head, and make mastering the Real Thing an enjoyable experience rather than a hard slog.

sixty-five said...

Agree, too about the graphic versions, though I've seen some awful ones, so they do have to be chosen carefully. I don't read much in the summer either. Wonder why that is? Not sure I would be up for Fenimore Cooper, but there's always the Daniel Day Lewis version if you get bogged down (not sure if it's PG or not). I read the Stieg Larson Millienium Trilogy (Girl w/Dragon Tattoo, etc.) As one who hates violence of any kind and never reads thrillers I'm not sure why I'm giving them 5 stars. But I am. Not kiddie lit by any means. And just polished off Jonathan Franzen's latest - Freedom. 5 stars for that as well.

sixty-five said...

Oh and PS about Vogue: Just saw the MOVIE "The September Issue" the other day. Loved it! (Of course that was my LIFE for a brief moment a few decades ago). Beecher persuaded me to get Netflix now that it has instant live-streaming for thousands of movies - an amazing feature, esp for one like me with no TV!