Yuletide Mystery: The Case of the Disappearing Doll

“You better watch out, you better not cry, better not pout, I’m telling you why…”

Christmas: That magical time of year when we bribe children into good behavior under the watchful eye of Santa Claus and his army, a.k.a. the Elf on the Shelf. As children discover whether their efforts result in toys or lumps of coal, parents will search for new strategies to coerce them into being good during the off-season. Or, if they’re anything like my parents, gift-wrapped reward or no, they’ll have the audacity to expect good behavior year round. Still, if it was Christmas-related, my parents weren’t above playing the Santa card. Which brings me to a tale of one of my Christmases long, long ago. Continue reading

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Deck the Halls (And the Blog)

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Readers of my blog around this time last year likely caught on to my love of the Christmas season. (There may have been an overabundant use of exclamation points.) Well, Christmastime is here again and I am at my traditional level of excitement with decking the halls — and the blog.

While last year I went for a festive header (and started with the same idea this year), I decided on a temporary change of theme. Perhaps inspiration came from the annual WordPress provision of falling snow on my page. Maybe the emailed pictures of my niece today brought out my love for all things adorable. Whatever the reason, it’s been an extra dose of fun to decorate my little corner of the Web this December. Continue reading

A Pirate’s Life Not for Everyone: Review of The Dark Frigate

1924_frigateArrr! Who doesn’t love a good swashbuckling pirate tale? While piracy plays a large part in 1924 Newbery winner The Dark Frigate, absent is the humor (and possibly eyeliner) familiar in popular, modern pirate portrayals. There is, however, no shortage of adventure in this story of orphan Philip Marsham by Charles Boardman Hawes.

Finding himself in trouble and in need of escape, Philip follows in the footsteps of his sea-loving father by signing on with the “Rose of Devon.” More misfortune strikes when the ship is overtaken by pirates who give the sailors the choice of piracy or death. Forget walking the plank, the sailors who refuse a pirate’s life are brutally and bloodily executed by the sword. It’s no surprise the path Philip chooses; after all, what sense would there be to kill off the hero in the middle of the book? He makes it clear he is an unwilling participant though, and devotes his time to solving the problems of how to escape the pirates and avoid the penalty of piracy — hanging. Continue reading

Back Off, Bugs, Inside Is My Territory

Around this time of year when I was little, the occasional bug would attempt an escape from the falling temperatures outdoors and wander into our home. If said bug was a spider, I would shriek and my mother would say something like, “Oh look! It’s a Halloween spider!” Maybe this was her attempt to make something scary seem cute, but years later, I remain unconvinced. I hate bugs. Continue reading

Animals, Adventure, and Controversy: Review of The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle

dolittleIn Hugh Lofting’s The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle, narrator Tommy Stubbins recollects when he was 9 and a half and met the Doctor, became his assistant, and joined in his adventures. I found the book to be a fun, quick read, imaginative, and an overall improvement from my reading experience with the previous Newbery winner.

Still, I found it ironic that Doctor Dolittle, who converses with animals and hates zoos, eats meat. Pages after referencing a pig that lives on his property, he’s digging sausages out of his bag and frying them up for him and Tommy. I’m no vegetarian, but I wonder how the Doctor justifies this choice. Is it OK as long as the animals on his dinner table weren’t any former patients or friends? How can he be so sure? Continue reading

Book Review Rating Process

Before I get back to posting Newbery book reviews, I thought I would explain my rating process. Since I’m tracking my reading progress on Goodreads, I adopted a one to five rating scale. Instead of stars (because I find it amusing), I assign an item or theme from the book being reviewed. For The Story of Mankind, that item was missing maps. Continue reading

Returning to Stalled Projects

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There’s a room in our house empty of furniture, its walls displaying patches of tested paint color and spackled over imperfections. It’s the first of several interior painting projects we planned in winter and started to work on in late spring. Since then, other events and projects have taken priority and the room has sat, prepped and full of potential, awaiting a fresh coat of color with an eggshell sheen.

It’s become a bit like this blog. Continue reading

Navigating History Without a Map: Review of The Story of Mankind

“Why should we ever read fairy stories, when the truth of history is so much more interesting and entertaining?”
Hendrik Willem Van Loon, The Story of Mankind

The pristine condition of this book should have tipped me off that the patrons of my local library prefer the fairy stories. Continue reading

Reading Through the Newbery List

The library and bookstore ranked high among the favorite places of my childhood. Here, my parents displayed endless patience as they waited for me to pick out my selections. Cautionary words about not judging books by their covers were only partially heeded, as a book’s physical appearance was often what caught my eye and prompted further investigation (i.e., reading the dust jacket or back cover to find out what this beautiful book was about).

Like anyone else with a love of reading, I developed favorite authors whose works often made it to my check-out pile or shopping bag. Criteria for the unfamiliar typically depended on two characteristics. One was thickness of the volume (the thicker the better so the delight of reading it would last longer). The other was the presence of a medal or seal related to the Newbery Award on the front cover. Continue reading

Why I Can’t Wait for Spring

I’m noticing a trend here, as I write yet another seasonal blog post. No matter, I’m over winter a month ago, and every day it persists I’m reminded of what I’m looking forward to when it’s finally over.

Warmth. (Pardon me for stating the obvious.) I don’t ever like being cold. Spring, for me, is ideal because it’s that blissful time without need of the extra layers essential to survive winter’s drafts and summer’s air conditioning. Continue reading