Category Archives: The Classics Club

The Door in the Wall

The Door in the Wall, by Marguerite de Angeli, was published in 1949 and received the Newbery Medal for excellence in American children’s literature in 1950. It is a book I remember reading and loving when I was ten or eleven.  And as a school teacher, I used it for a novel study when I taught my 6th Grade unit on the Middle Ages. It’s a wonderful story and teaching tool for that period of history, and for that age group.

The story takes place in the 14th century, and Robin, who comes from a noble family, is expected to become a knight.

Ever since he could remember, Robin had been told what was expected of him as son of his father. Like other sons of noble family, he would be sent away from his mother and father to live in the household of another knight, where he would learn all the ways of knighthood. He would learn how to be of service to his liege lord, how to be courteous and gentle, and, at the same time, strong of heart.

Robin’s father was away fighting in a war, and his mother was called to serve as a Lady-in-Waiting to the queen, so Robin was supposed to start his long training for knighthood. However, before he could leave home, he and the servants that were caring for him while his parents were gone became ill. Most of the servants died, and Robin was left alone, ill and forgotten. A kindly monk, Brother Luke, heard that a child was left alone and came to help him. He nursed him until he was well, but the illness left Robin extremely weak and without the use of his legs. The story of his recovery and of how he overcame his limitations both physically and emotionally is what makes this book a wonderful read.

Brother Luke was a kind and gentle teacher and caretaker. He and the other monks took Robin underwing, and taught him to read and to do many things for himself.

“Always remember that,” said the friar. “Thou hast only to follow the wall far enough and there will be a door in it.” “I will remember,” Robin promised, but he wasn’t sure that he knew what Brother Luke meant to say.

“Whether thou’lt walk soon I know not. This I know. We must teach thy hands to be skillful in many ways, and we must teach thy mind to go about whether thy legs will carry thee or no. For reading is another door in the wall, dost understand, my son?”

The language of the book is challenging for young readers, but the story is compelling and captures the reader. The history and culture of that period of time are masterfully presented and it’s a wonderful immersion into Medieval daily life.

But my favorite thing about the book is that it focuses on what is really meaningful in life, then and now. It’s a story about overcoming adversity and learning to understand and accept one’s own strengths and weaknesses. It shows the importance of doing one’s best and being open to opportunities that help you find an enjoyable and meaningful way to give back to the community. And it’s a story of a boy learning how to embrace life, despite the difficulties he faces daily. It’s a story full of wisdom, and our classroom discussions about the ideas in the book were wonderful. 

None of us is perfect. It is better to have crooked legs than a crooked spirit. We can only do the best we can with what we have. That, after all, is the measure of success: what we do with what we have.

A wonderful read and highly recommended!

This book was on my list of 50-books-to-read-in-five years for The Classics Club. It was also on my list of Birth Year Reading, a personal challenge.

Currently Reading: My Spin Book

I’m up early this morning (thanks to the sounds of a squirrel in the attic) and so decided to start my book for the Classics Club Spin #19. The Spin number was just announced this morning and that number was #1. I made a large cup of tea and am starting Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, which was the first book on my Spin list.

Americanah is the perfect book for me to read at this point in time because this book, (along with her book, We Should All Be Feminists) was chosen by the Multnomah County Library for the Everybody Reads 2019 in Portland, Oregon!  Discussions start in the various libraries in January, and she will be speaking in Portland in March. Unfortunately for me, that event is already sold out. But how serendipitous that this was my book chosen to read at exactly the right time!

Don’t know what we’ll do about the squirrel in the attic, though…

The Haunted Bookshop

 

The Haunted Bookshop, by Christopher Morley, has been described as “a love letter to booksellers”, and I agree with that. It’s also just a fun “entertainment,” to quote Graham Greene. As well as many interesting thoughts about the importance of books to individuals and to the nation, and many fun references to books and more books, the story also contains suspense and romance, and a lot of humor. It is not, however, a ghost story. The bookshop is haunted not by ghosts, but by the “ghosts of great literature.”

It is the sequel to Parnassus on Wheels, a book I loved. This one didn’t capture me in the same way, but I did enjoy it, as will anyone who loves books and bookshops. I highly recommend it!  Start with Parnassus on Wheels, though, and then move on to enjoy this one.

from the publisher:

“When you sell a man a book,” says Roger Mifflin, protagonist of these classic bookselling novels, “you don’t sell him just twelve ounces of paper and ink and glue — you sell him a whole new life.”

Some favorite quotes from the book:

Never argue with customers. Just give them the book they ought to have even if they don’t know they want it.”

You see, books contain the thoughts and dreams of men, their hopes and strivings and all their immortal parts. It’s in books that most of us learn how splendidly worth-while life is.

Books are the immortality of the race, the father and mother of most that is worth while cherishing in our hearts. To spread good books about, to sow them on fertile minds, to propagate understanding and a carefulness of life and beauty, isn’t that high enough mission for a man? The bookseller is the real Mr. Valiant-For-Truth.

“Of course one can’t help loving one’s country,” he added. “I love mine so much that I want to see her take the lead in making a new era possible. She has sacrificed least for war, she should be ready to sacrifice most for peace. As for me,” he said, smiling, “I’d be willing to sacrifice the whole Republican party!”

 

Click here to see a Wikipedia list of the book references included in this book that made it so much fun.

 

This book was one of my choices for The Classics Club.

 

Classics Club Spin #19

Hooray! It’s time for another Classics Club Spin!  This Spin will be a little different from previous spins. To add more fun to the challenge, this list should include some of the “chunksters” we have on our lists. We will have until January 31, 2019 to finish our spin book! The spin number will be announced on November 27, and at that time I will return to this post and highlight in red the book I will be reading for this fun November-through-January spin. Here is my list of 20 books selected from my master list of 50 books to read in 5 years.

Happy reading to all the spinners!

  1. Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche

  2. Death Comes for the Archbishop, Willa Cather
  3. The Sea Runners, Ivan Doig
  4. Travels With my Aunt, Graham Greene
  5. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
  6. Excellent Women, Barbara Pym
  7. Middlemarch, George Eliot
  8. The Story of an African Farm, Olive Schreiner
  9. Neuromancer, William Gibson
  10. Kristin Lavransdatter, Sigrid Undset
  11. A Room With a View, E.M. Forster
  12. Silent Spring, Rachel Carson
  13. Dust Tracks on a Road, Zora Neale Hurston
  14. One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
  15. The Solitary Summer, Elizabeth von Arnim
  16. Death Be Not Proud, John Gunther
  17. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith
  18. A Raisin in the Sun, Lorraine Hansberry
  19. The Outermost House, Henry Beston
  20. This Star Shall Abide, Sylvia Engdahl

…painting by Peter Ilsted (1861-1933)

Dipper of Copper Creek

Lithograph by Joseph Wolf, 1867

Dipper of Copper Creek, by Jean Craighead George, is part of her American Woodlands Tales series, a very interesting set of books for young people about the animals that live in the American woodlands. I love this series, and have read several of the books already. You learn so much about nature and about those individual animals from her stories. And I enjoy her beautiful descriptions of the woodlands.

The entire land had suddenly come into bloom. It was not the bloom of the lowlands, a season for the avalanche lily, the iris, the buttercup, the columbine, lupine, sun flowers, asters, and goldenrod. It was an upsurging of all of this at once. The days and weeks were not long enough for separate seasons: they were short, so that each subseason telescoped the others.

Each story also includes a variety of human beings and their interaction with and impact on the woodlands environment. In Dipper of Copper Creek, the story of the Dipper family is complemented by the coming of age story of a young boy spending the summer with his aging grandfather, a miner still living a very simple life in the woods. Both stories give you an honest look at the connectedness of all life in the woods. I think these would be wonderful stories to read and discuss in homes and in classrooms. They are kind tales and gentle reminders of the important environmental issues of our time.

 

This book was one of the books I chose to read for my 2018 TBR Pile challenge!

Death in the Castle

The Classics Club issued a DARE for the month of October. Choose one book from my list of classics to be read in five years, and dare myself to read it.

“Simply read a CLASSIC book from your #CClist that you classify as thrilling, a mystery, or Gothic. It could even be a book or author that SCARES you (because of it’s length, it’s topic, it’s reputation etc).”

This sounded like a lot of fun to me, and it was a perfect blend with my RIP XIII challenge, as well as my 2018 TBR Pile challenge! So I chose to read Death in the Castle, by Pearl S. Buck, for both the Classics Club Dare 2.0 and for the Readers Imbibing Peril XIII challenge.

The old castle is a thousand years old, and although it has been in the family for generations, SIr Richard Sedgeley and his wife, Lady Mary, can no longer afford to keep it. The National Trust will only agree to take it over if they can turn it into a prison–not an acceptable option for the aging Sir Richard. However, a young and wealthy American is interested in it and wants to buy it. But he also wants to move the castle, stone by stone, to Connecticut! What a difficult dilemma for the aging owners of the castle!

He let the reins lie slack as he went and his eyes roved over the mellow landscape of field and forest. The afternoon light lengthened the shadows and deepened the gold of the willows and the green of growing wheat. In the distance the castle stood against the sunset in all its stately beauty. It was his home, his inheritance, and how could he give it up?

Lady Mary has always believed in “others who had lived in the castle and until now she had accepted the possibility of the persistence of the dead beyond life.” Not ghosts, but the life forces of those ancestors who lived there before her. And Lady Mary is quite sure that the Others can show her where some treasure is hidden so that they will have the money to save the castle.

“There’s no such thing as death, not really,” Lady Mary said. “It’s just a change to something—I’ve told you—another level of whatever it is that we call life. It’s only a transfer of energy. Can you understand? Please try, Kate! It would mean so much to me.

This was a story that involved mystery, intrigue, suspense. A gothic-type mystery is not the usual subject matter for a book by Pearl Buck, but it was, as always with her books, well-written and enjoyable to read. The suspense definitely worked for me because I couldn’t stop reading until I found out what would happen to the castle and the different characters. A fun read!

Persuasion

Persuasion is my favorite Jane Austen book. I love Sense and Sensibility, and Pride and Prejudice, but it is Persuasion that steals my heart every time I read it.

From the publisher:

At twenty-­seven, Anne Elliot is no longer young and has few romantic prospects. Eight years earlier, she had been persuaded by her friend Lady Russell to break off her engagement to Frederick Wentworth, a handsome naval captain with neither fortune nor rank. What happens when they encounter each other again is movingly told in Jane Austen’s last completed novel. Set in the fashionable societies of Lyme Regis and Bath, Persuasion is a brilliant satire of vanity and pretension, but, above all, it is a love story tinged with the heartache of missed opportunities.

I love the character of Anne Elliot in this book. She’s a strong, intelligent and practical woman who is very kind and caring to her family and friends. She must have been more like her mother because she’s the polar opposite of her vain and shallow father and sister. I also love the character of Captain Wentworth, who shares so many of those same good qualities. I cheer for them all through the book, hoping that they will finally find a way to be together because they are so obviously meant for each other. I never tire of this story, and have reread it numerous times. It’s a wonderful audiobook, as well.

My favorite selection from the book is the letter Captain Wentworth writes to Anne, hoping beyond hope that they can finally declare their love for each other. It is perhaps the most passionate love letter I’ve ever read. The way it comes about in the story is a wonderful exchange between these two characters who are so well suited to each other. 

“I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others. Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in F. W. “I must go, uncertain of my fate; but I shall return hither, or follow your party, as soon as possible. A word, a look, will be enough to decide whether I enter your father’s house this evening or never.”

This is a story I will reread and enjoy many more times throughout my lifetime.

Persuasion was one of my choices for my 50-books-in-5-years for The Classics Club.

Classics Club Spin #18: Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm

Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, by Kate Douglas Wiggin, was a book I somehow missed reading as a child. I don’t know how that could have happened, but I’m glad that I finally read it and am happy that this was the book on my list chosen at random for my Classics Club “spin” book this month!

Rebecca Rowena Randall was one of seven children who lived at Sunnybrook Farm. Since her father’s death, it was very hard for the family to make ends meet. Rebecca was sent to Riverboro to live with two maiden aunts who could give her some of the advantages, including an education, that otherwise would not be available to her. Aunt Miranda was a grumpy, strict, rather hard-hearted person. Aunt Jane was just the opposite, but rarely spoke up to her more domineering sister. Rebecca, with her optimism, imagination, and zest for life, was a breath of fresh air for the community and for both her aunts. Her adventures were endless.

I enjoyed this book, but not quite as much as Anne of Green Gables. Both characters, Rebecca and Anne, were strong, independent, intelligent and joyful young women. The stories about their adventures are timeless, and they are both wonderful role models.

This was a fun choice to read for the Classics Club Spin #18!

 

Currently Reading: Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm

The book chosen from my booklist for The Classics Club Spin #18, was Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, by Kate Douglas Wiggin. Not knowing anything about it (except a vague memory of Shirley Temple as Rebecca?), I was a little nervous about starting it, but that didn’t last for long! I’ve read two chapters and am captured by it. Actually, Rebecca seems to capture everyone who comes in contact with her, including me! How could I have missed reading this classic as I was growing up?

Classics Club Spin #18, August 2018

It’s time for another Classics Club Spin! Here’s how it works:

On Wednesday 1st August, we’ll post a number from 1 through 20. The challenge is to read whatever book falls under that number on your Spin List, by 31st August, 2018. We’ll check in here then to see who made it the whole way and finished their spin book!

What’s Next?

  • Go to your blog.
  • Pick twenty books that you’ve got left to read from your Classics Club List.
  • Post that list, numbered 1-20, on your blog before Wednesday 1st August.
  • We’ll announce a number from 1-20.
  • Read that book by 31st August.

This will be the third “Spin” I’ve done since I joined the Classics Club. The last spin was a fail for me. The book chosen just wasn’t the right one for me at the time, so I still haven’t finished it (I will, eventually). I’m hoping the book chosen for this Spin will be one in which I can get completely and delightfully lost. Here is my list of 20 books for Spin #18. The chosen book will be highlighted in red.

  1. Kokoro, Natsume Soseki
  2. Kinfolk, Pearl S. Buck
  3. Ask Me, William Stafford
  4. A Raisin in the Sun, Lorraine Hansberry
  5. Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche
  6. One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
  7. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
  8. Travels With My Aunt, Graham Greene
  9. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Kate Douglas Wiggin

  10. The Measure of My Days, Florida Scott-Maxwell
  11. The Sussex Downs Murder, John Bude
  12. Death Be Not Proud, John Gunther
  13. Neuromancer, William Gibson
  14. Dust Tracks on a Road, Zora Neale Hurston
  15. Excellent Women, Barbara Pym
  16. The Gaucho Martin Fierro, José Hernández
  17. Green Thoughts: A Writer in the Garden, Eleanor Perenyi
  18. The Lost Prince, Frances Hodgson Burnett
  19. Green Hills of Africa, Ernest Hemingway
  20. The Sea Runners, Ivan Doig