One of the positive things about our extended time of quarantine for the Covid-19 virus, is that there have been so many excellent online events and experiences to lift our spirits and remind us of the beautiful and special things in life. I found one of those online events and enjoyed an amazing performance serial of the classic poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, by Coleridge. I read it once long ago (in high school), and probably wouldn’t have read it again until I found this link. It’s a MUST experience, because each section is read by a different performing artist, and the artwork that accompanies it is phenomenal. It’s a completely immersive art experience, and is incredibly powerful. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND the experience!
It’s time for another Classics Club “Spin!” Here’s how it works:
At your blog, by August 9th, 2020,, create a post that lists twenty books of your choice that remain “to be read” on your Classics Club list.
This is your “Spin List.”
You have to read one of these twenty books by the end of the spin period.
Try to challenge yourself. For example, you could list five Classics Club books you have been putting off, five you can’t WAIT to read, five you are neutral about, and five free choice (favourite author, re-reads, ancients, non-fiction, books in translation — whatever you choose.)
The challenge is to read whatever book falls under that number on your Spin List by 30th September, 2020.
During this time of continued quarantine for Covid-19, I am enjoying a lot of reading. So here I go again with a list of books from my 50 books to read before March, 2022.
Please check back here soon to see which of these books I will be reading for the new Spin!
- Rose in Bloom, Louisa May Alcott
- Barchester Towers, Anthony Trollope
- A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith
- A River Runs Through It, Norman McClean
- Night, Elie Wiesel
- The Book of Tea, Kazuko Okakura
- Heidi, Johanna Spyri
- A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf
- Ruth, Elizabeth Gaskell
- The Story of an African Farm, Olive Schreiner
- A Raisin in the Sun, Lorraine Hansberry
- Kokoro, Natsume Soseki
- Letters to a Young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke
- The Ramayana, Bulbul Sharma
- The Lost Prince, Frances Hodgson Burnett
- Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, Mildred D. Taylor
- The Gaucho Martin Fierro, José Hernández
The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros
- Sons, Pearl S. Buck
- Barracoon, Zora Neale Hurston
I have always loved reading children’s books, and so I am now exploring the wealth of books on diversity that are available to teach the Black and Brown experience to children. These books were checked out of my library’s e-book collection, and I’m very happy to say that they are being read by a lot of people right now! That fills me with hope! I enjoyed reading them and will post a mini-review of each one. They are all really good, and some are real treasures, like Nikki Giovanni’s poems.
A beautiful little book of poems. The illustrations and the poems were beautiful and moving.
from the publisher:
There is nothing more important to a child than to feel loved, and this gorgeous gathering of poems written by Nikki Giovanni celebrates exactly that. Hand-selected by Newbery honoree Ashley Bryan, he has, with his masterful flourish of color, shape, and movement, added a visual layering that drums the most impartant message of all to young, old, parent, child, grandparent, and friend alike: You are loved. You are loved. You are loved. As a bonus, one page is mirrored, so children reading the book can see exactly who is loved—themselves!
This was an historical happening that I had never heard about, but it is an important story to read with children when talking about segregation.
from the publisher:
Almost 10 years before Brown vs. Board of Education, Sylvia Mendez and her parents helped end school segregation in California. An American citizen of Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage who spoke and wrote perfect English, Mendez was denied enrollment to a “Whites only” school. Her parents took action by organizing the Hispanic community and filing a lawsuit in federal district court. Their success eventually brought an end to the era of segregated education in California.
This little picture book, written by a Portland, Oregon, author, is a great way to start conversations with children about racism. It is powerful in it’s simple, straightforward language and information.
from the publisher:
Yes, this really is a kids book about racism. Inside, you’ll find a clear description of what racism is, how it makes people feel when they experience it, and how to spot it when it happens.
This is one conversation that’s never too early to start, and this book was written to be an introduction for kids on the topic.
This is a powerful book about the difficulty of traveling for families of color back in the 1950s. A good way to start the conversation about Jim Crow laws and how things have, or have not, changed since that time.
from the publisher:
Ruth was so excited to take a trip in her family’s new car! In the early 1950s, few African Americans could afford to buy cars, so this would be an adventure. But she soon found out that black travelers weren’t treated very well in some towns. Many hotels and gas stations refused service to black people. Daddy was upset about something called Jim Crow laws . . .
Finally, a friendly attendant at a gas station showed Ruth’s family The Green Book. It listed all of the places that would welcome black travelers. With this guidebook―and the kindness of strangers―Ruth could finally make a safe journey from Chicago to her grandma’s house in Alabama.
This was a very moving story about the Underground Railroad.
from the publisher:
Lindy and her doll Sally are best friends – wherever Lindy goes, Sally stays right by her side. They eat together, sleep together, and even pick cotton together. So, on the night Lindy and her mama run away in search of freedom, Sally goes too. This young girl’s rag doll vividly narrates her enslaved family’s courageous escape through the Underground Railroad. At once heart-wrenching and uplifting, this story about friendship and the strength of the human spirit will touch the lives of all readers long after the journey has ended.
If you haven’t read any of these little books, I highly recommend them for parents and grandparents to read with their loved ones, and for teachers to start important discussions with their students (of all ages). The conversations they inspire would be heartfelt.
This year, 2020, is the strangest year! I posted this 2020 version of the calendar on my Instagram account, and we’re all just hoping (but not holding our breath) that December will be like that…nice and normal! But the quarantine days in the middle there are exactly what it has felt like to me. One big jumble of days!
But I’m checking in here to say HI to everyone, and report that we are all well here, although the summer has not been without stresses and anxieties. I am so grateful, though, for our wellness, our resilience, and all the love and support of family and friends!
Some time in April, my oldest brother tested positive for Covid-19. It was such a shock to hear that news. But he was without symptoms, and couldn’t believe that he had tested positive. He was in isolation (at home) for 10 days, then in quarantine for 24 days beyond that. He never developed any symptoms that he could discern, and at the end of the quarantine time, he and his wife were tested again and both results were negative. Also, he requested an antibody test, and that returned negative, as well. We will never know if he was simply one of those asymptomatic cases, or whether his test was one of the 5% false positives. We are all just deeply grateful for his good health.
Our summer projects are moving along slowly. I ended up not planting a vegetable garden this spring/summer, but the butterfly garden is doing really well and looking quite pretty. I’m getting ready to plant some autumn veggie crops in the raised beds, and look forward to planting lots of bulbs for the spring. Hubby has been working on the patio cover next to the new shed in backyard. Our pace on these usual projects seems to have really slowed down. I think it’s due to what I call “quarantine fatigue.”
My reading, however, has NOT slowed down, but sped up. I finished Deborah Crombie’s mystery series, and read a number of books for my anti-racist self-education. And then, at a friend’s suggestion, I tried out the first book in a “romance” series. I hardly ever read books from that genre, but I thought I’d give it a try for some lightweight summer reading, and now I’m already on book #9. I got completely captured by Robyn Carr’s Virgin River series, which takes place in a very small town in the mountains of northern California. Once I met the people of the town, I was hooked. Robyn Carr does relationships (and sex) very well, the men are all decent and kind, the women (almost all get pregnant) are strong and independent, and everyone cares about and helps each other. So Virgin River has not been a bad place to spend this crazy summer!
I hope that you and yours are all healthy and safe this summer, and I hope you are enjoying your summer reading.
Stay safe, my friends.
“A true Englishman doesn’t joke when he is talking about so serious a thing as a wager.”
Around the World in Eighty Days, by Jules Verne, is a classic that I was familiar with, watched the movie version, but had never read the book. So I put it on my “Fifty books in five years” list for The Classics Club. It was so much more fun, and funnier, than I expected! It’s a wild mad dash around the world!
The story is that Phileas Fogg makes a wager with his gentleman’s club members that he can circle the world in just eighty days. He and his French valet, Passepartout, set out from London to win this wager, and have every kind of adventure, and obstacles to overcome, that can be imagined. To add to the adventure, although he didn’t realize it at the time, he was pursued by a detective due to a misunderstanding that he was a criminal on the run.
“It’s really useful to travel, if you want to see new things.”
This novel was full of humor and fun. I must read more of Jules Verne’s books!
The Solitary Summer, by Elizabeth von Arnim is a short and lovely summer read. It is a sequel to her famous book, Elizabeth and Her German Garden, which I read years ago and loved. Click here to read my review. Elizabeth’s idea for her solitary summer is described in the quote below from the book:
Last night after dinner, when we were in the garden, I said, “I want to be alone for a whole summer, and get to the very dregs of life. I want to be as idle as I can, so that my soul may have time to grow. Nobody shall be invited to stay with me, and if any one calls they will be told that I am out, or away, or sick. I shall spend the months in the garden, and on the plain, and in the forests. I shall watch the things that happen in my garden, and see where I have made mistakes. On wet days I will go into the thickest parts of the forests, where the pine needles are everlastingly dry, and when the sun shines I’ll lie on the heath and see how the broom flares against the clouds. I shall be perpetually happy, because there will be no one to worry me. Out there on the plain there is silence, and where there is silence I have discovered there is peace.”
She did indeed have her solitary summer, even though husband and family were there at home with her. But she spent her days outdoors in the gardens and reading, and she had the freedom she so desired. Her ruminations on the books she read, and the flowers and plants she loves, are life-affirming. Her descriptions are lovely, and I felt as though I was there with her savoring that magical summer. All the way through the book I kept thinking of the saying: “If you have a library and a garden, you have everything you need.” And she said it even more eloquently in the book:
What a blessing it is to love books. Everybody must love something, and I know of no objects of love that give such substantial and unfailing returns as books and a garden.
I also chose this book to read for my personal challenge, “WANDERLUST: Reading the World,” an effort to read books that are from or take place in each of the countries of the world. This book took place in Germany.
This book is also part of My Garden Reading.
Deep in the Sahara, by Kelly Cunnane and illustrated by Hoda Hadadi, is the story of a young Mauritanian girl named Lalla. She desperately wants to wear a malafa like her mother, her older sister, and her grandmother. But a malafa is not to be worn until a young girl understands why they are worn.
from the publisher:
Lalla lives in the Muslim country of Mauritania, and more than anything, she wants to wear a malafa, the colorful cloth Mauritanian women, like her mama and big sister, wear to cover their heads and clothes in public. But it is not until Lalla realizes that a malafa is not just worn to show a woman’s beauty and mystery or to honor tradition—a malafa for faith—that Lalla’s mother agrees to slip a long cloth as blue as the ink in the Koran over Lalla’s head, under her arm, and round and round her body. Then together, they pray.
This was such a sweet and interesting story with beautiful illustrations. I didn’t know much about Mauritania, except that it is a West African nation. And I didn’t know much about the practice of Islam there, or the customs of dress, so this was an interesting learning for me. It would be a wonderful addition to a class library or a family’s collection of books on diversity and world cultures. Here is a photo of the author’s notes on writing this story, which I thought were as interesting as the book itself! (Click on the photo to enlarge it.)
I chose this book to read for my personal challenge, “Wanderlust,” an effort to read books that are from or take place in each country of the world. This was a story from Mauritania.