Mem Fox is a successful children’s book author and literacy expert. But her expertise in Reading Magic (Harcourt 2001) comes across as personal and passionate, mostly because she writes foremost from her position as a mother. Her main point in writing this book is to read aloud to our children, making it a fun time and a game, as parents let their children learn from the words that surround them in their daily lives.
I loved reading this book. Nothing Ms Fox said was surprising or new to me. Back in 2009, I started a project to read my then 26-month-old son 1000 books before he started kindergarten. Just over 18 months later, we’d read 1000 different books together (that I’d recorded, at least) and he was reading on his own. Everything Ms Fox suggests is thus backed up by our application of it! It was not a struggle. It was fun. (more…)
I had hoped that by waiting a week or two I’d know what I want to say about Love’s Labour’s Lost, but after all this time I still have very little to say. I worry that I feel this way because I read a free Project Gutenberg version of it, and as I read in Shakespeare on Toast a few weeks ago, that is not necessarily a good thing: not every version is created the same.
Love’s Labour’s Lost is an amusing Shakespearean comedy: light, pure entertainment. I found few memorable lines in the version I read, but it was an enjoyable plot. I also watched Kenneth Branaugh’s version of the play, which was a completely original take on it. I loved that he was able to reinvent the play, using Shakespeare’s own words, in a modern scene without too much pain.
The play is about the king of Navarre and his court — four men who take a vow of celibacy for three years while they pursue their studies, forbidding women to even enter their court. When the princess of France hears of this development, she and her court decide to visit and see what kind of reception they can receive. Of course, the young men fall secretly in love with the lovely ladies, despite the King’s decree, and when they all discover the other’s pining love, they decide they should abandon their pledge and flirt with the women. Crossed love letters and a group of women determined to mock the royal court ultimately result in the four young men failing to accomplish their goal of wooing the women, but it makes for an amusing ride for the audience as we watch it unfolding!
Branaugh placed this
mythical Basque kingdom and court in Europe in 1939, giving his lovebirds the tendency to burst into songs — Gershwin, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin. It’s a musical, it’s light. Is there any substance to it? Not a whole lot, but Shakespeare’s original didn’t have much either. There is a lot of play on words, most of it groan worthy. Apparently, Branaugh’s movie had less than half the original words as Shakespeare.
Love’s Labour’s Lost is the least often performed of Shakespeare’s plays. Nevertheless, I’m glad I gave it a try. It’s nice to know that even Shakespeare doesn’t do everything perfectly. Although, I will say that even this mediocre and less than impressive play still has delightful wordplay. Shakespeare didn’t do too badly.
When I was in high school, my American literature class studied F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (published 1925) for more than a month. After we read it, we read and discussed critical essays, we got in groups and planned papers, and then each of us wrote a paper that was at least five pages about the novel. It was quite an experience. Five pages for a high school student is quite long.
I liked the book. I ended up studying English in college so I got to write plenty more critical analyses of novels. Yet, I haven’t recalled a deep and abiding love for The Great Gatsby. Maybe because we spent too long on it? Reading it this week, however, was a true joy. (more…)
Because my son is so young, I’m just beginning to re-familiarize myself with middle grade fiction; I haven’t really read much since I was a youngster. I remember really loving the gentle rural setting of Patricia MacLachlan’s Sarah, Plain and Tall when I was a young girl: it was one of my favorite books. When I saw a new book by Ms MacLachlan, I thought I’d give it a try; the publisher, via LibraryThing Early Reviewers, sent me a copy for review consideration. I’m also delighted to see Ms MacLachlan has an extensive back list of titles to explore.
Patricia MacLachlan’s Kindred Souls (2012, Katherine Tegen Books) is set in a pleasant contemporary rural setting, a setting that I’m not familiar with as a suburban dweller myself. Young Jake treasures his friendship with his aging grandfather, Billy, who longs for the simplicity of his childhood. Jake and Billy visit the rundown sod house in which Billy was born and raised, and Billy challenges Jake to rebuild it. Although Jake does not feel he can do such a hard project, his love for his grandfather prompts him to try.They are “kindred souls,” afterall.
Kindred Souls is a story of inter-generational love, an inspirational story of a child who succeeds in doing a hard thing, and a gentle reminder to enjoy life now, for life is fleeting. Parents should be away that the easy-to-read middle-grade novel addresses a tough issue, the obviously approaching death of the boy’s elderly grandfather. Not every child will be ready to consider mortality, but for those that are, Ms MacLachlan treats it with tenderness. I doubt children will be disturbed by any implications. The novel is a sweet reflection on a grandparent/child relationship, and the rural farm setting provides a unique perspective on life for a young reader.
I enjoyed Kindred Souls and I look forward to reading more middle-grade fiction as my son gets older.
I read Lois Lowry’s The Giver (1993, winner of the Newbery Medal 1994) when it was first published (I was a teenager), but the related books to it, Gathering Blue (2000) and Messenger (2004), were both written after my childhood days, so I hadn’t read them before. My book club recently decided to read Messenger, so I finally rectified that! I technically read them “out of order” then, reading Messenger before Gathering Blue. I enjoyed the latter two, but because I am no longer of the impressionable stage of life that I was in when I read the original, I didn’t love either of them as much as I have enjoyed The Giver.
Each of these books by Lois Lowry focus on a different type of dystopian community. Because there are some overlapping characters, it is called a “series,” but one technically does not need to read them in order because of the different settings of each story. I was fascinated to read these as an adult, with a little more perspective on the quite different dystopias Lowry focuses on. (more…)