One of the highlights of every school year while I was in elementary school was the annual Book Fair. Endless (or so it seemed) displays of books forOne of the highlights of every school year while I was in elementary school was the annual Book Fair. Endless (or so it seemed) displays of books for sale, mostly from the Scholastic and Apple publishing houses, along with games and entertainment, which were fun but weren't what I was there for. I was all about the books. Every year my mom would put her foot down as to how much money I could spend and every year I went over that limit. (A little wheedling and pleading on my part, along with the phrase, "But, they're books! I'm learning!" worked every time. Can you tell I'm the youngest and therefore spoiled rotten?) We'd stagger home with both my and my mom's arms loaded down with stack of books or pulled down by the weight of bulging totebags given to use with our purchases.
This was one of the first "grown up" books I can remember buying back from those halcyon days. As with many young girls, I adored horses, which meant I wanted- no, I needed to get my hands on as many books on the subject as possible. (To be honest, I haven't grown out of that phase. I'd still love to own a horse, especially if I could have one of those micro ponies as seen in the recent Amazon.com commercial:
A pony to run around the house, sleep in my bed, and go outside via a really big doggie door. Hey, some people want a micro pig, I want a micro pony. No big deal.)
Because I read this book so many years ago (and haven't revisited it since; I know, I'm a bad girl), I don't remember much from that experience. I do recall being fairly traumatized by the descriptions of the abuse suffered by Black Beauty at the hands of certain of his masters. However, I recall that I read the book during the same period in my life when I was taking horse-riding lessons in English saddle. I remember admiring and feeling inspired by Sewell's respect for horses, especially because the language she used in getting that respect across to the reader was never self-righteous or smug. In response to Sewell's writing, I tried to make sure I treated the horses at my writing stable with the respect they deserved. Sadly, that attitude wasn't a two-way street when it came to Sergeant, the horse I rode most often, as demonstrated by the fact that he stopped dead from a canter when we were attempting to jump a fence. But that's another story...
This is a great book for young readers in many ways. I don't think it could ever be "dated" or out-of-touch as the themes - respect, compassion, empathy - are universal and always in need of a refresher course....more
There are some classics that are yearly re-reads for many people. For some it's Little Woman, for others it's Pride & Prejudice, The Catcher in thThere are some classics that are yearly re-reads for many people. For some it's Little Woman, for others it's Pride & Prejudice, The Catcher in the Rye, Great Expectations, The Great Gatsby, Anna Karenina, or any other number of great titles of classic literature. For me, it's the complete Anne of Green Gables series. I discovered the books way back in the mists of my childhood and they're so intertwined with the Sullivan Entertainment miniseries from 1986 (starring Megan Follows, Colleen Dewhurst, and Richard Farnsworth) that it's hard to remember the exact order of things: did I watch the miniseries first and then read the books, or did I read the books and then get all excited over the fact that a miniseries was made? Either way, I do know that, growing up, I had access to an excellent public library, so I didn't actually have a large collection of books at home, which makes those books that I did own rather memorable. I can remember being presented with the boxed set of the paperbacks for my birthday (the miniseries came out in February and my birthday is in March) and the first book's cover had a photo of Megan Follows as Anne, sitting on the train station bench when she first arrives in Avonlea, on Prince Edward Island. Those are the same books I own today.
Though I may not remember the details of that first encounter with L.M. Montgomery's novels, I do remember, vividly, how entranced I was with Anne. I wanted to be her: I wanted to have her bright red hair; I wanted to live in a farmhouse on P.E.I.; I wanted to find a kindred spirit best friend, as Anne found one in Diana Barry; I even wanted to become a teacher for a brief flash in time because of Anne. For several years, I have to admit, I went beyond mere fandom into obsession; everything about Anne and L.M. Montgomery I gobbled up, including more books by the author (I've read pretty much her entire catalogue). I have a book called The Anne of Green Gables Treasury, full of recipes and crafts to recreate your own Anne Shirley experience, along with a history of L.M Montgomery, P.E.I., teachers and teaching during the late 19th/early 20th century, even a floorplan of the Green Gables farmhouse (something I particularly adored). I read that treasury cover to cover and back again, nearly as many times as the books themselves. Lucy Maud may have dreaded writing Anne through college (and beyond), but I couldn't get enough of her creation: I'd read the books, then watch the miniseries (yes, by that time I'd gotten it and the sequel on VHS), or the other way around. I'd also bug my friends about the books, encouraging them to read them, talking the series up until they finally gave in out of sheer exhaustion. Eventually they'd thank me, but before that point it was a toss up as to whether they'd kill me first.
Sadly, for whatever reason (probably an overload of books to read for "official" reviews), I haven't read my Anne of Green Gables series in at least three years, if not more. I know, I know, shame on me. I'd like to say I'll rectify this egregious oversight sometime soon, but I fear that'd be a lie. Which is a shame. Because I've missed my yearly visits to Avonlea and Green Gables and that beautiful, gentle, idealized fairy tale of a past. Disappearing into Anne's world was a great way to forget the troubles of this one, if only for a few hours at a time....more
A sweet story about friendship and Celtic myths from the same author who wrote The Dark Is Rising and The Grey King. After the Volnik family from ToroA sweet story about friendship and Celtic myths from the same author who wrote The Dark Is Rising and The Grey King. After the Volnik family from Toronto, Canada inherits a Scottish castle, they don't realize they've also inherited the family Boggart. When the Volniks decide to sell the castle and ship selected family heirlooms back to Canada, one of those, a desk, also contains the Boggart, into which he unwittingly slipped. Now the Boggart is with a new family, in a new world, and his playful tricks are doing a lot more damage thanks to the clash between Old Magic and modern technology. Now it's up to the two Volnik kids, Jessup and Emily, and their allies, to find a way to get the Boggart home and back where he belongs.
The first thing most astute readers will notice is the outdated technology. Yes, Jessup is thrilled about a computer with a black-and-white monitor, no audio, which runs on floppy disc technology. Now, you can either focus on this and let it taint the entire book or laugh it off as a anachronism that was cutting-edge when the book was published back in 1993. Which is what I did, leaving me with a fast-paced, entertaining read that would be perfect for kids around the 8-12 year range. The child characters are well-drawn and allow the reader to fully sympathize with their troubles with the Boggart and with the adults who don't believe their stories. Which, as an adult, I must admit can get tiresome, but at least there are a few adult characters who are on Emily's and Jessup's side, who know about the Boggart and what it can do, which provides a nice balance. Cooper shows a lot of love for Scotland in her descriptions of the countryside, the lochs, even the slightly dismal weather, which was lovely for me although it made me long to go back there, having visited the country as part of my UK hiking trip way back in '97. Toronto wasn't given quite as loving a touch, mainly because most of the focus was on the antics of the Boggart and the kids.
Overall, a pretty standard adolescent novel, story-wise, that benefits from an author with a deft and skilled hand at writing. The Boggart might not be a modern-day children's classic, but it's certainly worth a read....more
Okay, there's no way I can be objective about this series. I first read these books as an impressionable child (I can't even remember how old I was, bOkay, there's no way I can be objective about this series. I first read these books as an impressionable child (I can't even remember how old I was, but using the publication date as a guide, as well as the ragged state of the paperboard slipcover encasing the books, I'm guessing I was around 10 years old). From the very first moment, I wanted to be Anne, to have that red hair of hers, to stand on the porch of Green Gables and look out over the rolling green fields, to wiggle my toes into the wind-swept dunes of Prince Edward Island. Over the years, I never relinquished my childish fantasy; in fact, I only reinforced it through repeated readings of the novels. And I still imagine that one day, I will travel to P.E.I. I will visit Green Gables and stand on that porch; I will see those dunes and feel the salty sea air in my now-red hair (thank you Clairol).
It's true that not all the books in the series are equal in quality. The first three, I'd say, are the strongest, when Anne is still discovering her world and her place in it. Subsequent books became more prone to flights of fancy and romance, yet, despite that, Anne never lost her power to enthrall and inspire, and although her temper certainly mellowed, she never lost her fire. Frankly, I can't imagine a better role model for a young girl. Anne stood by me on those days when I felt sick, depressed, just downright awful about myself and the world. My first stirrings of romance and how love should be formed around Anne and Gilbert's "courting," even down to their very first moments when she cracked her slate over his head because he called her "Carrots." (After reading that scene, I realized the boy knocking me down in the playground wasn't actually being mean to me, but was expressing that he liked me. Silly boys.) Most importantly, I learned from Anne the importance of being oneself, even if doing so makes you stand out from the rest of the crowd.