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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Winnie-the-Pooh, an excerpt

"It's just the place," he explained, "for an Ambush."

"What sort of bush?" whispered Pooh to Piglet. "A gorse-bush?"

"My dear Pooh," said Owl in his superior way, "don't you know what an Ambush is?"

"Owl," said Piglet, looking round at him severely, "Pooh's whisper was a perfectly private whisper, and there was no need--"

"An Ambush," said Owl, "is a sort of Surprise."

"So is a gorse-bush sometimes," said Pooh.

Calvin, an excerpt

I recently came across this passage in Calvin, and was undone by its beauty.

"As a consequence, we may dare assure ourselves that eternal life, of which he is the heir, is ours; and that the Kingdom of Heaven, into which he has already entered, can no more be cut off from us than from him; again, that we cannot be condemned for our sins, from whose guilt he has absolved us, since he willed to take them upon himself as if they were his own. This is the wonderful exchange which, out of his measureless benevolence, he has made with us; that, by his descent to earth, he has prepared an ascent to heaven for us; that, by taking on our mortality, he has conferred his immortality upon us; that, accepting our weakness, he has strengthened us by his power; that, receiving our poverty unto himself, he has transferred his wealth to us; that, taking the weight of our iniquity upon himself (which oppressed us), he has clothed us with his righteousness." Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book IV, Chapter XVII, section 2.

Jeeves and the Tie that Binds, P.G. Wodehouse

Jeeves and the Tie that Binds offered a typical Wodehousian romp. Bertram Wooster is a lovable bumbling idiot, with a touching respect for his butler Jeeves (whose first name we learn in this installment of their story), a very wise man. Bertie is always veering towards matrimonial disaster (actually disasters of many different sorts), only to be saved in the nick of time, and often thanks to Jeeves's wisdom, and this story was no different. Wodehouse gives his characters fabulous, delicious names (like Claude Cattermole 'Catsmeat' Potter-Pirbright).

I liked it, and the other Wodehouse titles I've read, but I must admit that I have to be in the right mood in order to enjoy it. I think Wodehouse's books may be best when shared socially. I can imagine reading them out loud to my children, when they're a mite older, and dissolving in giggles with them.

I'd recommend any Bertie Wooster/Jeeves work if you're looking for a light-hearted escape.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Howard's End is on the Landing: A Year of Reading from Home, by Susan Hill

Susan Hill, an accomplished author and publisher, went looking for a particular book in her extensive personal library, but couldn't find it. Instead, she found many books she loved but hadn't read in a long while, and books she owned but had never read. She conceived the idea of challenging herself only to read books she already owned for one whole year. Howard's End is on the Landing is her account of her reading during that year.

I liked this book, as you, gentle reader, no doubt surmised from the subtitle of the book alone. And yet, and yet. Mrs. Hill personally knew, or at the least met and was acquainted with, many of the authors she discusses. On the one hand I grew a bit tired of reading such things as, 'When I met Ian Fleming at the party...' (I made that quote up), and on the other hand, I was fascinated by the sort of behind-the-scenes views of authors whose works I've read: 'The beam of light falls on a man standing leaning against a fireplace. His cocktail is on the shelf beside him. In his hand there is a cigarette holder. He has a high colour to his high cheekbones, a high forehead, too. High style. I am old enough to know that it is rude to stare but who would not stare at the craggy remains of such mesmerising good looks?' (I quoted that.)

And, I really should have learned better self-control by now, because of course my already stupendously-long TBR list has grown even longer by reading this book. Not only did I discover authors and titles I was previously unfamiliar with, not only did I gain a better understanding of titles I had perhaps disdained (and therefore never planned to read), but I also now must look into other works by Mrs. Hill herself.

So, gentle reader, beware. If you, like I am, are easily led to expand your TBR, don't pick up this book. (By which I mean to say, I recommend this book to those who like to read about books.)

The Door in the Wall, by Margeurite de Angeli

In fourteenth century England, Robin's father has left to fight with the English king in the Scottish wars. Robin's mother has left to serve the queen as a lady-in-waiting. Robin himself was supposed to be escorted to another nobleman's home to begin his training in knighthood, but the plague has ravaged London, and, as a result, his escort has not been permitted to enter London. Robin has been struck by a disease which has wasted his legs so that he is no longer able to walk, and his nurse has died of the plague. All alone, and with seemingly no one aware of his plight, the poor, fretful, frustrated, lonely child grows worried. How can he even get food for himself?

Enter Brother Luke, who brings Robin to the hospice of St. Mark's to look after him until arrangements can be made to reunite Robin with his parents, or send him off to his noble patron. Under Brother Luke's tutelage and ministrations Robin grows up, learns to swim, learns to use crutches, learns patience. Finally Robin goes to his patron, where an opportunity presents itself for him, cripple though he be, to save the whole town.

I thought very highly of this book. My girls loved it. Of the several books I'm reading out loud to them, this was everyone's favorite. It reminded me a great deal of Adam of the Road, and I would be hard-pressed to choose which of them I prefer. The language is beautiful, and the dialog carries the flavor of older English. The story is exciting, while embracing virtues and eschewing vice. Robin is a believable boy.

I highly recommend this book for children, those who read to children, and those who enjoy reading children's literature for themselves.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches, by Rachel Jankovic

A new friend gave me this book last week, for which I thank him. It was fun to be able to tell him that I knew Rachel, before she was Jankovic.

Overall, I liked this book. It felt like a collection of blog posts, more than like a book. I appreciated several of her similes, and have used some of them this week in helping my children understand better what I was asking of them. Mrs. Jankovic frequently calls out parental selfishness, and promotes parental grace. Be full of grace toward your little ones (note that she does not mean to slack on the discipline), and love them for who they are.

I did disagree with some minor points (do I really have to start doing the girls's hair? Really?).

I would recommend this book to mothers of young children. It is full of encouragement.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Cure Tooth Decay, by Ramiel Nagel

I read this book because I recently received bad news at the dentist's office about my own teeth. Mr. Nagel claims, and backs up his claims with a lot of scientific evidence, that modern dentistry does not truly help teeth, but that changing one's diet in specific ways can stop the decay and can even reverse the decay. His dietary recommendations are very similar to those of the Nourishing Traditions cookbook and the Weston A. Price Foundation, but even more restrictive.

I would recommend this book to anyone looking to promote their dental health without following the methods of modern dentistry.

Gates of Excellence: On Reading and Writing Books for Children, by Katherine Paterson

Gates of Excellence collects some of Mrs. Paterson's writings on the subject of children's books, including portions of her acceptance speeches for the awards she's received, and some reviews of other authors' books. I enjoyed the book, the insights into how to read and write children's books. I enjoyed the insights into Mrs. Paterson's own character and upbringing. I would think, though, that this is not a book for many readers. If you already have a keen interest in Mrs. Paterson and would like to know her better, or you already have an interest in reading about reading and writing, then you would like this book. Otherwise, I expect you wouldn't.

"To read a great novel is to lay yourself open for a conversion experience...A great novel is a kind of conversion experience. We come away from it changed."

"Another distinction I might make as an aside is that you don't speed-read art. When I see or hear those boasts of a speed-reading-school graduate having read Jaws in an hour, I am pleased--think of all the time he's saved. But when someone brags to me that he's read War and Peace in five hours, I get sick to my stomach. You do not read War and Peace in five hours or even five days. You live for a season with Natasha and Pierre and Andre, and when at last you come to young Nicholas Bolkonski's words '...Oh, Father, Father! Yes, I will do something with which even he would be satisfied...' you are simply not the same person who weeks before opened the book..."

"And as for being the delight of logicians, it was only when it finally dawned on me that I was not dealing with rational beings, but with children, that I was able to summon the strength to survive motherhood."

"But those of us who have followed Frodo on his quest have had a vision of the true darkness. We know that we, like him, would have never gotten up the steep slope of Mount Doom had the faithful Sam not flung us on his back and carried us up, crawling at the last. We know, too, that we would never have parted with the baneful ring of power had not the piteous Gollum torn it from our bleeding finger and, in the effort, fallen screeching into the abyss, clutching his damned treasure and ours."

"I love revisions. Where else in life can spilled milk be transformed into ice cream?"

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Well, Hello There!

Long time, no see. I know. But we have officially made the big move, unpacked enough to establish housekeeping, set up a good internet connection at the house, and started the school year. Thus, I feel the freedom to attempt blogging once again.

I thought for this first-post-in-a-long-time post that I would simply list the books I've read since I last blogged, and perhaps the books I'm currently reading. Then resume writing a separate post for each book I finish with my next post.

Surprised by Oxford, by Carolyn Weber. This is a spiritual autobiography, detailing how the author found God (was found by God) at Oxford. I would recommend this, but not to just any ol' reader. I can't imagine my husband finding much for himself in it. I think that those who already like biography/autobiography, and those who are seeking for God but have unanswered questions, could find much in this book.

Why We're Not Emergent, by Two Guys Who Should Be, by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck. This is an important book, deftly but sympathetically exposing the serious problems in the emergent movement. I would recommend this book to concerned Christian readers.

Vermeer's Hat: The Seventeenth Century and the Dawn of the Global World, by Timothy Brook. This book uses objects depicted in Vermeer's art as the starting-points for relating the history of global trade in the 17th century. I found it fascinating, and would recommend it to readers of history.

Boys and Girls Forever, by Alison Lurie. This book collects a series of brief biographies of the authors of children's literature. I like reading books about books and authors, so this was right up my alley. I learned of some authors I was previously unaware of, such as Tove Jansson. I would recommend it to readers who like books about books and authors.

Light of Eidon (Legends of the Guardian-King), by Karen Hancock. This fantasy kept me up late at night. I had to finish it! And I'm not even a big reader of fantasy. This is the first in a series, and I am eager to gets my hands on the other books in the series. I guess you can already tell that I'd recommend this to readers of fantasy.

I'm not sure this is all I've read since I last blogged, because, not only have I read a lot less than normal these last several weeks, but I stopped logging my reading.

As for what I'm reading right now, here goes.

Loving the Little Years, by Rachel Jankovic.
Cure Tooth Decay, by Ramiel Nagel.
Gates of Excellence: On Reading and Writing Books for Children, by Katherine Paterson. (Because I like books about books. Surprised?)

To my children I am reading:
Secrets of the Universe, by Paul Fleisher.
Christian Liberty Nature Reader.
Madam How and Lady Why, by Charles Kingsley.
The Story of the World, Volume 1, by Susan Wise Bauer.
The Door in the Wall, by Marguerite de Angeli.
The Burgess Animal Book for Children, by Thornton W. Burgess.
The Winnie-the-Pooh stories.
The Exploits of Moominpappa, by Tove Jansson.