I Am Still Here: My Reading Journal and A Mini-Review

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Hi. Do you remember me? I’ve been gone from the blogosphere for a few weeks, longer than I’d anticipated. I’m still here. Last week was very busy with holiday activities. I’m determined to make this week a catch up week, in which I try to clean the house, put my son to bed early each night, mail Christmas cards, finish Christmas shopping/projects, make Christmas fudge, and oh yeah! blog a little bit.  Below is my Reading Journal (so you know what I’ve been up to) and a Mini-Review of a reread from my childhood.

Reading Journal

I’ve finished a few books in the past three weeks, and I have a few in progress.

In Progress

I’m 70% finished with Trollope’s Phineas Finn, and I’m finding Trollope’s style is growing on me. Although I didn’t think I liked Can You Forgive Her?, in retrospect, I think I liked it more than I realize. I’m sincerely looking forward to reading more of Trollope’s novels.

On the War and Peace front, I’m almost finished with Volume 1 (of 4), on page 250 or so of 1200. I need to read a bit more diligently if I want to finish by the end of next month, but once Phineas Finn is complete, I will make it a priority. Each 50-page block takes about an hour, so I’m trying to give myself that time each evening so I can see my progress each week. I’m finding it enjoyable, although the war sections do drag for me compared to the society sections. The P&V translation is sufficient (no complaints) and the interspersed French and German (footnotes at the bottom of the page) don’t bother me at all, to my surprise.

I also picked up a nice used copy of A Moveable Feast from Sam Weller’s in Salt Lake while on my vacation. I have enjoyed the bits I’ve read (about 30%) but have taken a break to focus on Phineas Finn, as the Circuit stops here on Friday.

Finished Books

I finished two more books for my African Autumn project. Tropical Fish by Doreen Baingana is a collection of related stories about three sisters in Uganda, and I loved the writing and the stories. It is very well done, and as it has been a few weeks since I’ve finished reading it, I wonder how I can do it justice.   The Book of Chameleons by Jose Eduardo Agualusa is narrated by a gecko in war-torn Angola, and it is wonderful in its complexity. I closed the book and decided I had no idea what it was about but I really liked it. It is another book I’m not sure how to write about.  I may try this week to get some coherent thoughts about the two books. They are both well worth reading.

Then, I finished a few rereads. I realized what a comfort a reread is when I’m stressed and abnormally busy. They are just a sweet respite from the day, and because I know what happens, they are easy reads.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens was my first reread of the season, and it is a tradition for me at Christmas time. I read it every two years or so. I love the cheesy sentimentality and the Christmas spirit it gives. It gets me in the mood for Christmas. Also, I reread The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogama for my book club. I had suggested it to my group and I’m pleased to say that everyone liked it! A few even loved it, and one explained how she’d stopped reading to try to figure out the math. I was surprised, on the reread, how much math was in the book. I still liked it and I will reread it again. But I’m still not a math person, beautiful as it seems in the book!

A Mini-Review

And then, after my reread of childhood favorite The Girl Who Owned a City, I thought it time to track down another middle grade favorite, Who Stole the Wizard of Oz? by Avi to see how it has withstood the tests of time.

Just as with the other book, this is one I have fond memories of. I would reread it frequently, whenever I saw it on the shelf at the library. But also, I had a huge author-crush on Avi when I was in second grade because he came and spoke to select students from my school district. (I had written a promising story about a boy who turned into a kite and so I was one of the select few.) I wanted to be an author just like Avi, so I began my quest by reading every single book that Avi had written that my library had. (In retrospect, I should have continued writing creative stories instead. But then, I’ve always been more of a reader, despite the fact that I thought I wanted to write.)

Avi is a very versatile author and has written Young Adult novels as well as middle-grade books as well as graphic novels (after my day). Given the fact that I was eight years old, it should be no surprise that one of the middle grade novels became my favorite. Who Stole the Wizard of Oz? is a creative story of twins who solve a mystery themselves: they find the clues to solve the mystery in the children’s books that had been stolen, including The Wizard of Oz, Peter Pan, The Wind in the Willows, Through the Looking Glass, and Winnie-the-Pooh. What’s the connection among the the books?

It was with trepidation that I began to read it, but I’m pleased to say I still like it. I am not a mystery person, but this is a light enough mystery that I still like it very much. As the reader, I’m not expected to solve the mystery but one may be able to if they wanted to. Who Stole the Wizard of Oz? is a celebration of  the mysteries to be discovered in books. It shows children who love to read and visit the library. It shows children who have determination and who solve a mystery without adult annoyance. It’s a fun adventure.

Reading it as an adult did reveal the flaws. Technically, the kids are breaking the law at times, and ten-year-old children should really not decide to take down thieves themselves. The superficiality of the robbery and the facts surrounding it are unbelievable, and the writing is not Avi at his best. Nonetheless, I can still say that Who Stole the Wizard of Oz? is a memorable favorite childhood book, and it is still fun to read today, despite the flaws.

Reviewed on December 13, 2010

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

  • heheh, I did that same thing with The Housekeeper and the Professor – I wanted to figure out the math before they explained it! I’m such a nerd. I’m glad to hear A Moveable Feast has been good. I’m looking forward to that one. One day…

    • Amanda, I just let the math go over my head, lol. Not interested in revisting math until I absolutely have to (i.e., when my son needs help with homework.) MOVEABLE FEAST is very good — I just wish I knew more of the people Hemingway is meeting.

  • I just wanted to extend sympathies for the busy-ness of the pre-festive season. I hear you about getting those cards written and mailed, presents bought, food baked, etc! And glad that Trollope is making inroads into your heart. I know his thinking is flawed – he was a Victorian male, after all, and could never have fully transcended his kind – but I’ve always found him a good read.

    • litlove, I love the holidays so it’s not so bad. (I saw on your blog that you are not a fan of the busyness, so I do hope you are holding up.) Yes, Trollope has definitely made it on my “read again soon” list. Very satisfying despite the long length of his books.

  • I’ve got the Housekeeper and the Professor on my TBR list and I’m looking forward to it even more now. I have to say I agree with you on rereads. My shelves have so many books on them that I want to read again that I am constantly struggling to find space for new additions.

  • I’m glad that you liked Tropical Fish. And I just bought The Book of Chameleons – I’m looking forward to reading it. I also disappeared for a while. hang in there!

  • I read Moveable Feast back in high-school–just plucked it off my mother’s shelf and took it on a beach weekend with a friend. I was transfixed–which doesn’t really make sense to me given how little context I had for the book. I must read it again soon! Hope you enjoy it.

    • LifetimeReader, I can imagine being transfixed — I don’t know what I was expecting but I’m enjoying it. I wish I knew more about the people he’s meeting. But I love the evocation of Paris and being a young struggling artist. Very nice.

  • I’m glad War and Peace and A Moveable Feast are working out for you, as they’re both on my list! I meant to read A Christmas Carol for the first time this year, but I forgot to request it from the library. Oops…next year!

    Enjoy your catch-up week πŸ™‚

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