“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.
I am a Learner. That’s why I became a teacher (and also because I loved spending my days in the hopeful and inspiring world of young people). So in trying to deal with the horrific events of the last few weeks, I realized that I have so much to learn. So I am beginning an important undertaking: I am now focusing on educating myself on how to become Anti-Racist.
“In a racist society it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.”
“The opposite of racist isn’t ‘not racist.’ It is ‘anti-racist.’ What’s the difference? One endorses either the idea of a racial hierarchy as a racist, or racial equality as an anti-racist. One either believes problems are rooted in groups of people, as a racist, or locates the roots of problems in power and policies, as an anti-racist. One either allows racial inequities to persevere, as a racist, or confronts racial inequities, as an anti-racist. There is no in-between safe space of ‘not racist.”
And one of the most hopeful things I’ve discovered in making this commitment to become anti-racist is that so many other people are doing the same thing! I took the photo above just this morning when I got on the library website to look for some e-books to add to my growing list of books to read on this subject. Every. single. book. has a waiting list of weeks and weeks! My heart soared with HOPE to see that there are so many other Learners out there!
On this page, I will keep a list with links to my reviews of books and other resources that I’ve found and appreciated, so please come back here occasionally to see this self-education journey.
BOOKS READ AND REVIEWED:
- Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
- Dream Big Dreams: Photographs from Barack Obama’s Inspiring and Historical Presidency, by Pete Souza
- They Call Us Enemy, by George Takei
- Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race, by Reni Eddo-Lodge
- We Should All Be Feminists, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- Dear Ijeawele: or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- Becoming, by Michelle Obama
READ BUT NOT REVIEWED (yet):
- Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah
- The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
- I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
- Barracoon, by Zora Neale Hurston
- Beloved, Toni Morrison
- Kindred, by Octavia Butler
CHILDREN’S BOOKS ABOUT THE BLACK EXPERIENCE AND DIVERSITY:
- Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred D. Taylor
- The House of Dies Drear, by Virginia Hamilton
- The Cay, by Theodore Taylor
- Black Children’s Book Illustrators to Follow and Support (link)
- Unlocking Us with Dr. Brené Brown. “Brené With Ibram X. Kendi on How to Be an Antiracist“
- The Oath, with Chuck Rosenberg. “Racial Justice,” interview with Maya Wiley.
Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay, by Susan Hood and illustrated by Sally Wern Comport, is a true story told in picture book form. It’s a very heartwarming story about the power of music and creativity to bring hope to the slums of Paraguay.
from the publisher:
Ada Ríos grew up in Cateura, a small town in Paraguay built on a landfill. She dreamed of playing the violin, but with little money for anything but the bare essentials, it was never an option…until a music teacher named Favio Chávez arrived. He wanted to give the children of Cateura something special, so he made them instruments out of materials found in the trash. It was a crazy idea, but one that would leave Ada—and her town—forever changed. Now, the Recycled Orchestra plays venues around the world, spreading their message of hope and innovation.
It’s so nice to find a story of inspiration and hope. Ada’s dreams of playing the violin were fulfilled beyond her imagination, thanks to the work of Favio Chávez. Here are some links to more information on both Mr. Chávez and the Recycled Orchestra.
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 book based on a true story from Paraguay.
I read Excellent Women, by Barbara Pym, many years ago. It was the first book I read by her and I remember liking it very much. Since then, I have read many of her other books, but it had been so long since I read this one that I decided to include it on my list of 50 books to read in 5 years for The Classics Club. Last month, it came up as my “Classics Club Spin” book for May. I’m glad I reread it, and I’m happy to spend time reading anything written by Barbara Pym.
“Excellent Women” is a term referring to unmarried women who are considered spinsters. In this story, which takes place in the 1950s, the main character, Mildred Lathbury, is just over 30, and well established in the community as a spinster. As the daughter of a clergyman, she devotes much of her time to helping at her church, and just helping people in general. She is capable and independent, and quite satisfied with her life as a single person. But new neighbors, a married couple, complicate her predictable daily existence, and she gets drawn in to the drama of their lives. She is good friends with the pastor of her church and his sister, (who has always taken good care of him), but when he gets engaged to the widow of another clergyman, that further complicates Mildred’s ordered life.
Throughout this story, I felt that Mildred was the only “adult in the room.” Everyone else was needy in one way or another, or selfish and unable to really care about others. I felt sorry for Mildred because of the demands placed on her, and when others took advantage of her I wanted her to stand up to them and just say “No.” It took her quite awhile to be able to do that, but she weathers all the demands and drama, and in the end appreciates her single life, her solitude, and her independence even more than before.
I suppose an unmarried woman just over thirty, who lives alone and has no apparent ties, must expect to find herself involved or interested in other people’s business, and if she is also a clergyman’s daughter then one might really say that there is no hope for her.
There is always a lot of subtle humor in Barbara Pym’s novels, which is very entertaining. I liked the main character, Mildred Lathbury, more and more as the book progressed and appreciated her intelligence and her insightfulness into the humans around her. This was a novel well worth re-reading.
Excellent Women was one of my choices for my 50-books-in-5-years for The Classics Club.
I just read Dream Big Dreams: Photographs from Barack Obama’s Inspiring and Historic Presidency, by Pete Souza. It’s a book for young people and it is full of beautiful and moving photographs, and wonderful human values. It was healing to read something so full of goodness and hope this week!
“Summer Reading”… those two words evoke wonderful memories, and always fill me with anticipation for the great reads of the next few months. Our library is still in lockdown for the quarantine, but hopefully it will reopen soon and my summer can include walks to the library every few days. And, of course, I plan to do much of my reading on the porch!
I don’t have a specific plan or list for my summer reading, but there are a couple of books I have in mind that would be perfect summer reading. The first one, which I’ve already started, is The Solitary Summer, by Elizabeth von Arnim. It’s turning out to be a perfectly delightful porch read!
And I ordered a 4 book series called “A Gardening Mystery,” by Mary Freeman. The books were hard to find, but they seemed like the perfect combination of my favorites: mysteries and gardening. I hope they turn out to be a lot of fun!
And there are lots of books on my Classics Club list, and my personal challenges lists. I have so much to read, so it won’t be difficult at all to fill up the summer with pleasurable reading.