Newbery Award acceptance speech, Taylor said that one of her goals as a writer was to “paint a truer picture of Black people. I wanted to show the en Newbery Award acceptance speech, Taylor said that one of her goals as a writer was to “paint a truer picture of Black people. I wanted to show the endurance of the Black world, with strong fathers and concerned mothers; I wanted to show happy, loved children about whom other children, both black and white, could say, ‘Hey, I really like them! I feel what they feel.’ I wanted to show a Black family united in love and pride, of which the reader would like to be a part.” I think if you read Roll of Thunder, you will agree with me that Ms. Taylor achieved her goal.
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry deals with the cruel and unjust treatment of black people by the Southern white society they live in during the Depression era (1933). The story is told from the perspective of a black girl whose family must deal with the injustices and hatred they experience. One of my favorite things about Taylor’s stories about the Logan family is the characters. It may be true that many of the characters in the book clearly fall under the category of either “good” or “bad.” Most of the white people are depicted as hateful, and these characters never really change their ways. On the other hand, for the most part, the black people are portrayed as being honest, fair, and hardworking; most are religious and moral. However, a few characters are caught somewhere in the middle, seemingly pulled in both directions. Throughout the story several characters struggle with their identity, their role in society, and their sense of duty and loyalty.
Not as popular as her other books, but this is a fun, romantic story with a few gothic elements thrown in. I love the friendship between Catherine andNot as popular as her other books, but this is a fun, romantic story with a few gothic elements thrown in. I love the friendship between Catherine and Henry that grows into a romance....more
This is a wonderful allegory full of Christian truths - everyone who calls themselves a Christian should read it. But it's an important literary classThis is a wonderful allegory full of Christian truths - everyone who calls themselves a Christian should read it. But it's an important literary classic as well and any student of English literature should be familiar with it. For example, I recall in a college English Lit. class when we were reading Vanity Fair, the teacher didn't even mention where the title came from (PP) and how the meaning of the title is relevant to the story.
There are various versions out there - the best ones include Bunyan's footnotes with scripture references. I would also recommend that modern readers select an edition in Modern English if they find that the "Old King James" English bogs them down.
When reading this book, the reader needs to realize that Bunyan's goal was to present Christian doctrine and truths in a way that was entertaining and memorable. This is the reason for the short sermons that are included in the dialogue - a common method of instruction. Also he gives the characters such obvious names so that his meaning will be easily understood by the reader. While someone who is not a Christian or is unfamiliar with the Bible may enjoy and profit from reading this, it definitely holds more meaning and instruction for the Christian reader.
Charles Spurgeon said that if Bunyan were to be poked, he would bleed scripture - he knew it so well! This comes through in Pilgrim's Progress as he incorporates so many concepts and terms from the Bible throughout the story. ...more
This is a charming book about a real Quaker boy who becomes the royal painter to King George III. He is aided by local Indians who teach him how to maThis is a charming book about a real Quaker boy who becomes the royal painter to King George III. He is aided by local Indians who teach him how to make colors out of things found in nature. Benjamin also shows his resourcefulness and determination when he "borrows" from his cat's tail to make paintbrushes. The Quakers believe art to be worldly and vain, so Benjamin has to work to get his parents and church to recognize his talent and permit him to receive training. Benjamin West became a famous and influential painter as a result. Kids of all ages will love this book!...more
Utopia was Thomas More's attempt in 1516 to critique some of the problems in his society and put forth a challenge for reform, but many of the ideas pUtopia was Thomas More's attempt in 1516 to critique some of the problems in his society and put forth a challenge for reform, but many of the ideas proposed in his story are far-fetched and impractical. From More's work, a lot of other utopian and dystopian literature developed and dystopian fiction and films are continually being written.
Dystopia happens to be one of my favorite genres of fiction. So here's the funny thing: I'm sometimes accused of being a perfectionist by people who know me well, but for some reason, I enjoy reading stories of societies which are far from perfect, even though they were established with that intention. I think I like these stories because as a "perfectionist" I'm also a fixer. If I see something amiss, or something that I think could be improved upon, I just have to jump in and try to remedy the situation. So I can relate to the story characters that see the problems in their culture and are not content to just accept it and go along with society. I also admire characters who are determined to fight evil and injustice, even when it means defying the culture they live in.
One of my favorite young adult dystopia books is The Giver by Lois Lowry. I've read it numerous times and have also taught it a couple of times for Jr. High lit courses. The setting of The Giver could be futuristic or simply an alternate reality. Real historic events that have taken place on Earth are mentioned in the story, so it apparently takes place in a community somewhere on Earth, but not the Earth as we know it. In this community, most aspects of life are controlled: population, weather, education, jobs, recreation, property ownership, even death. Families are formed by a Committee that assigns spouses and children to each household, and occupations are assigned to children when they turn 12. "Sameness" is emphasized and individuality is discouraged. Asking questions is considered rude, and everything is carefully planned out in order to "protect people from wrong choices." Rules are strictly enforced and very hard to change.
Twelve-year-old Jonas had always been respectful of authority and very careful about following the rules. He accepted the way things were; the rules made sense, and he never questioned them. Although he was aware that the rules stated that "if you don't fit in, you can apply for Elsewhere and be released...How could someone not fit in? The community was so meticulously ordered, the choices so carefully made." While the community is rather isolated and protected and its citizens are almost completely free of pain, sorrow, illness, fear, or worry, it is also devoid of creativity, variety, privacy, imagination, opinions, choices, and adventure. The story's conflict develops when Jonas is selected to be the Receiver of Memory, the most important job in the community, and "now, for the first time in his twelve years of life, Jonas felt separate, different. He remembered what the Chief Elder had said: that his training would be alone and apart."
When he begins his training to take on the role of Receiver (which is passed on to him from the Giver of Memory), Jonas gradually learns about all that has been kept from the people "for their good." As Jonas gains this awareness, he begins to resent the restraints and rules in his society that are limiting personal freedom, individual expression, and human relationships. As he acquires memories, experiences feelings, and gains an understanding of concepts like family and love that none of the people in his community are familiar with, he becomes more alienated from them and discontent with his life. At one point, Jonas expresses his frustration with the situation with the Giver:
"But why can't everyone have the memories? I think it would seem a little easier if the memories were shared. You and I wouldn't have to bear so much by ourselves, if everybody took a part."
The Giver sighed. "You're right," he said. But then everyone would be burdened and pained. They don't want that. And that's the real reason The Receiver is so vital to them, and so honored. They selected me - and you - to lift that burden from themselves."
"When did they decide that?" Jonas asked angrily. "It wasn't fair. Let's change it!"
"How do you suggest we do that? I've never been able to think of a way, and I'm supposed to be the one with all the wisdom."
Jonas wonders if things could somehow be changed, but it is the Giver who comes up with the plan to return the memories back to the community.
In The Giver, Lois Lowry uses foreshadowing effectively to build the suspense. As the story progresses, she gradually gives the reader more information about Jonas' society and what is kept from them in order to maintain a sense of security and sameness. The Giver also raises some good topics discussion, which is why I chose it for literature studies. For example:
- Is it worth giving up personal freedom in order to have security/safety? - Which is safer or better for society -- freedom of choice or control? Which is better for the individual? - Is it better to express inner thoughts, feelings, concerns, and opinions, or are some thoughts and feelings better kept to ones' self? - How do family and other personal relationships give life more meaning and purpose? - How are mistakes, disappointments, pain and sorrow important, even beneficial, in life? - Why are memories important in our life? If we could have all of our bad memories erased, would that make us happier individuals?
Warning to parents and teachers: The Giver has been the target of censorship due to some of the controversial subjects it touches, particularly euthanasia. For this reason and for its minor references to sex and drugs, I would recommend this book for ages 12 and up. Apparently some have thought that Lowry is suggesting that some of the practices in Jonas' society should be implemented in the real world. However, I think it's clear that she is merely putting forth a hypothetical situation to show the possible negative consequences of establishing such a rigid, controlled community.
The Giver was followed by three additional companion works: Gathering Blue, Messenger, and finally Son, which was published in 2012. I've read all but the last one, but so far The Giver remains my favorite; it's a story that really stays with you....more
Jane Eyre is one of my all-time favorite works of classic fiction, and I’ve read it several times (and will again!). This romantic, gothic fictional aJane Eyre is one of my all-time favorite works of classic fiction, and I’ve read it several times (and will again!). This romantic, gothic fictional autobiography portrays a young woman seeking to find a place in society where she can add value to others, as well as be valued herself. From the very start, the reader sympathizes with Jane and admires her courage in difficult circumstances. Abandoned, demoralized and betrayed as a child by those on whom she depends for care and protection, Jane has almost every disadvantage in a society which judges and rewards individuals for their external and superficial qualities, such as social status, wealth and beauty. But Jane does have qualities that serve her well – her wit and intelligence, her courage, and most importantly, her faith. Each situation she faces serves to give her more inner strength and confidence. She knows that while people may fail her, God never will, and He never does.
In every circumstance which she finds herself, Jane never gives up hoping and searching for usefulness, independence and companionship. In spite of experiencing ill-treatment and injustice at the hands of her fellowman, rather than becoming bitter and resentful, she remains open to the possibility of forgiveness and redemption. Jane’s integrity and strength of character are challenged on numerous occasions, but she never compromises her values and continues to look for and hold to what is good and right.
I explore Jane’s story and her search for a place in society in more detail in “A Heroine’s Quest for Home,” which will soon be published on my blog, www.ImAllBooked.com. ...more
This is an exciting, suspenseful, and even humorous at times, adventure story of the French Revolution. The SP makes daring rescues of French prisonerThis is an exciting, suspenseful, and even humorous at times, adventure story of the French Revolution. The SP makes daring rescues of French prisoners, and only a few close comrades know his true identity. Regarding movie versions, there's one with Anthony Andrews and Jane Seymour which I think is very well done. Andrews does a fantastic job as Sir Percy, and from what I recall, the story line follows the book fairly closely. Orczy wrote a whole series of Pimpernel adventures following this one, which I intend to read one of these days. ...more
An important piece of Early American literature, this is a true, first-person narrative account of a 17th century (1682) Puritan woman whose village wAn important piece of Early American literature, this is a true, first-person narrative account of a 17th century (1682) Puritan woman whose village was attacked by Indians; her family was massacred, and she and a couple of her children were taken captive. Of the 37 in her household, 24 were captured and 12 killed, with only one escaping.
The opening scene is very dramatic and graphic -- barbaric, chaotic, and hellish. Throughout the account various epithets are used to describe the Indians: hell-hounds, ravenous beasts, barbarous creatures, murderous wretches, merciless heathen, and wolves. Some people may object to this as offensive and even racist, but I believe it is ignorant of readers to say this is a racist account. The writer is describing her personal feelings and actual experiences while watching a horrific scene take place before her eyes. She then spends about three months with the Indians, genuinely in fear for her life, doing what she can to survive, and wondering if she will ever be restored to her family and people, before being returned. During that time, Rowlandson makes a distinction between the savage, cruel Indians and those who extended kindness and generosity to her. She makes it clear that during this time, no one ever offended or violated her.
Rowlandson considers the possibility that the Indians were being used by God as a "scourge" to discipline His people. Rowlandson's narrative is often cited as an example of a jeremiad - a form usually associated with second generation Puritan sermons but which is also relevant to many other kinds of Puritan writing. Drawing from the Old Testament books of Jeremiah and Isaiah, jeremiads lament the spiritual and moral decline of a community and interpret recent misfortunes as God's just punishment for that decline. But at the same time that jeremiads bemoan their communities' fall from grace, they also read the misfortunes and punishments that result from that fall as paradoxical proofs of God's love and of the group's status as his "chosen people." According to jeremidic logic, God would not bother chastising or testing people he did not view as special or important to his divine plan. Rowlandson believed that God uses suffering to teach His children certain lessons and to strengthen their trust and faith in Him.
According to the author of the Preface (probably Increase Mather), Rowlandson's purpose for publishing the account was to testify to God's providence and preservation of her through her trial, and as a "memorandum of God's dealing with her." As a Puritan, she viewed every aspect and incident in life as coming from the hand of God for His purpose, and she trusted Him with the outcome, whatever might happen. Throughout the narrative she quotes scripture to remind herself of God's protective care and purposes. While reading through the narrative, pay attention to: 1) Rowlandson’s view of God and his dealing with his children; 2) Her descriptions and epithets used for the Indians, and changing attitude towards them; and 3) Her many references to scripture, and how she compares her life and circumstances to biblical passages, drawing on scripture for comfort, understanding, and hope. ...more
“I was now landed and safe on shore, and began to look up and thank God that my life was saved in a case wherein there was some minutes before scarce“I was now landed and safe on shore, and began to look up and thank God that my life was saved in a case wherein there was some minutes before scarce any room to hope...I walked about on the shore,…reflecting upon all my comrades that were drowned, and that there should not be one soul saved but myself.”
Daniel De Foe’s Robinson Crusoe, published in 1719, was among the first of a genre called realistic fiction. Since fiction writers were not respected at this time, De Foe presented his story in a way that would give it a sense of being a true account. De Foe calls himself the editor of the tale, which is stated to have been originally written by Crusoe himself, so the story is told in first person by Crusoe. He begins relating how, in the pursuit of adventure, he finds himself as the sole survivor after being shipwrecked on an island.
A few months after landing on the island, Crusoe admits, “I had hitherto acted upon no religious foundation at all; indeed, I had very few notions of religion in my head, nor had entertained any sense of anything that had befallen me otherwise than as chance, or, as we lightly say, what pleases God, without so much as inquiring into the end of Providence in these things, or His order in governing events for the world.” But he begins to be more aware of God’s care and provision for him.