Thursday, December 31, 2015

Bible Reading Plan for the New Year

I have always scorned those lists where you check off three chapters a day to get through the Bible in a year. It seemed too speedy to leave time for reflection and application.

Well, I'm here to eat humble pie. My husband actually read TEN chapters a day last year (yes, that's almost three times through) and his knowledge and love of the Scriptures has grown exponentially. Tim Challies posted a link to a list from Church of the Cross (from Grapevine, Texas) that I've been using since Dec 1st. (The link is at the bottom of the above web page.)

This plan covers the Old Testament in two years, the Psalms twice a year, and the New Testament three times. I REALLY love this plan.

First, It follows the church calendar with appropriate passages for Easter, Christmas, etc. Secondly, the New Testament passages are read three days running. For example, Mark 1-3 is the reading for December 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. This gives me the time to soak in the words of a passage (which I felt was lacking in most read-the-Bible-in-a-year plans.) Third, I love it that I'm reading this with hundreds of other Christians I'll never meet or see, a picture of the unity of the invisible body of Christ. Fourth and last, I love waking up each morning to see what my new reading assignment will be. I haven't missed a day because I'm relishing this Scripture-reading guide.

If you don't start on December 1st, I'm not sure if you can jump in later, but it would be worth checking out. If you don't use this plan, there are MANY others available for free online. Ligonier Ministries always publishes a nice variety of options.

Happy Reading!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Reading Year in Review - 2015

        It's always fun to look back through my reading log to remember what I read this past year. Of the 66 books I read, only 23 were on my Kindle (a big switch from last year when I read 42 on my Kindle). Since I've been in the U.S. for half of this year I've tried to take advantage of the library and read as many physical books as possible. When I return to Brazil in a few months (where less is available), I'll revert to digital books. But I'm taking about 40 books in my suitcase to balance my reading habits.

These are the books that I most enjoyed in 2015. . .

Favorite audiobook: The Best Yes by TerKeurst

Most Enjoyable Classic: Our Mutual Friend by Dickens

Book that Required the Most Effort, but Gave the Biggest Reward: Paradise Lost

Most Amusing: Little World of Don Camillo

Best WWII: The Scarlet and the Black

Best New Author: James Runcie (Sidney Chamber's mysteries) - review forthcoming

Hands Down Favorite of the Year: The Kitchen Madonna by Rumer Godden

Thursday, December 17, 2015

No Holly for Miss Quinn by Miss Read Book Giveaway

When a favorite blogger (Brenda) mentioned that No Holly for Miss Quinn was on her Christmas reading pile, I decided to give it a try.

Miss Read was the pseudonym of Dora Jessie Saint (1913-2012), a British novelist of cozy fiction. She wrote two sets of novels: the Thrush Green and Fairacre series. The main character in the Fairacre books is an unmarried school teacher. This book is listed as #12 in the series and is about a different spinster. Miss Quinn is in her mid-thirties and works in a busy office in Caxley. She longs for a home in a quiet village and jumps at the chance to rent a room at Holly Lodge in Fairacre.

She is looking forward to a quiet Christmas alone when her brother suddenly calls about a family emergency.  How she responds makes up the rest of this charming little book.

My one complaint is that the characters seemed sketchily drawn. Maybe if I read all the Fairacre books I would feel like I knew them better. Still, I enjoyed watching Miss Quinn stretch and grow while assuming new responsibilities and I liked the pleasant, airy tone of the book.

I'd love to pass on my ex-library copy to one of my readers. Leave a comment on my Worthwhile Books Facebook page if you'd like a chance to win it. (Winner will be announced by Dec 31st.)

Have a blessed Christmas!

Added on January 7, 2016: Congrats to Melissa for winning this!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Gutenberg Elegies by Sven Birkerts

The subtitle of The Gutenberg Elegies is "The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age." Birkert's main premise is that ditching physical books for modern gadgets causes a reduced attention span and a general impatience with sustained inquiry. (p. 27) This loss of contemplative and cognitive power is a threat to all that makes us truly human.

My 1994 version was out-of-date in the sense that the internet was just beginning and Birkerts was still referring to cassette tapes and VHS recordings. But it was not out-of-date in its call to consider how much we are losing by giving ourselves completely over to digital media. In fact, in light of how much was not even on the scene when he wrote this book, his prophecies are surprisingly accurate.

The technologies of entertainment have arrived with great fanfare, diminishing audiences for the book, allowing watching and playing to supplant reading as a dominant home activity. . . . They not only take up time that might have once belonged to the book, but they make it harder, once we do turn from the screen. (p. 200) Amen to that!

While circuit and screen are ideal conduits for certain kinds of data - figures, images, cross-referenced information of all sorts - they are entirely inhospitable to the more subjective materials that have always been the stuff of art. That is to say, they are antithetical to inwardness. (193)

My favorite quote: I speak as an unregenerate reader, one who still believes that language and not technology is the true evolutionary miracle. (p. 6) Before texting was even born, Birkerts sensed that the need to provide information more speedily would erode our language.

This book reinforced my desire to read physical books as much as possible. But, alas, did not convince me to give up my e-reader. I am a slave to convenience after all. At times Birkerts is verbose and whiny, but I managed to slog through. More accessible titles on this subject are The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains and Postmans' Amusing Ourselves to Death.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Prayer, Praise and Promises by Warren Wiersbe

Warren Wiersbe is a Baptist minister who has written over 100 books. He is probably best known for his "BE" series on every book of the Bible. ("Be Joyful" is the study of Philippians, for example.)

I downloaded his book Prayer, Praise & Promises as my devotional book for 2015 and have really enjoyed it. If you are used to more heavy-hitting devotionals like Oswald Chambers' My Utmost for His Highest, Wiersbe can seem "light" at times. (Frankly, there are some years that I need my devotional reading to be more comforting than convicting.) But light does not mean "fluffy" since the daily readings shed many insights into the book of Psalms.

I appreciated Wiersbe's explanations of certain Hebrew phrases and Jewish customs, but my favorite aspect of the book was his pithy comments such as:

How well we sleep sometimes indicates how much we really trust the Lord. (from Jan 7)

God does not reveal His will to those who are curious. He reveals His will to those who are obedient. (Feb 24)

Faith is living without scheming. (April 25)

People who don't want to do the will of God live their lives in a little bucket of water. But when we accept His will for our lives, we launch out on an ocean of possibility. (Dec 14)

Not only is Prayer, Praise and Promises a daily dose of encouragement, it's also a pleasant and painless way to work through the Psalms in one year.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Words for Wednesday - On the Bravery of Faithfulness

Dustin Messer over at has an interesting article on Kent Dobson, the pastor who followed Rob Bell at Mars Hill. Dobson resigned from the church saying that he is taking a brave journey from the center of faith out to its edges. But Messer's suggests that this is not as courageous as staying centered on sound doctrine. In a culture of shifting sands, those who stay in the church are actually doing the less easy thing.

These days, the real adventurers are those who set sail for the risky land of Christian orthodoxy. The real brave men and women are those who consistently go to church, observe the sacraments, hear the word, and submit themselves to the discipline of the church. In an age of autonomy, it's those who subject their thoughts, behaviors, and passions to an exclusive Sovereign who are the brave few. Those may not be the memoirs we're interested in today, but they'll be the ones that last tomorrow.

Something to think about.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Worthwhile Movie #12 - The Hundred-Foot Journey

Where has this movie been hiding? I had not heard of it before it came up on my suggestion list at Amazon. Still, I wasn't interested at first because Hundred-Foot Journey was made in 2014 and I have trouble with all the gratuitous junk in modern movies. Then I saw that Helen Mirren was in the lead and that it was about food and decided to give it a chance.

The Kadam family left India after violence broke out in their hometown of Mumbai. As they travel through Europe, looking for a new place to live, their car breaks down in a small French town. Papa Kadam decides to buy an abandoned restaurant and settle there. Unfortunately the restaurant is directly in front of a chic French eatery and the owner, Madame Mallory, is not a bit pleased with their invasion.

What follows is a sometimes hilarious, sometimes painful story of the war between the two eating establishments. But it's more than that. It's the story of how a young man realizes his dreams. It's the story of the clash of cultures and how people learn to live together in harmony in spite of them. And it's the story of the poetry of good food.

Helen Mirren is amazing.

If you are used to modern-day action films, this two hour flick may seem to plod at times, but I highly recommend it. Because it has no sex and just a smattering of violence and profanity, you can actually relax and enjoy yourself while watching. It's a great story, well-acted and beautifully filmed.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary Schmidt

Gary Schmidt is a masterful writer. I've read and enjoyed The Wednesday Wars and Okay for Now, so I was looking forward to reading his award-winning Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy.

Turner Buckminster is the preacher's son who has just moved to Phippsburg, Maine. He has trouble making friends until he meets Lizzie, a young girl who lives on a nearby island. She is a descendant of former slaves; the good folks of Phippsburg do not look kindly on their mixed-race friendship. The painful lessons he learns as a result of choosing to go against public opinion help Turner to grow into a man.

This felt like a Dicken's novel much of the time because there were many odious people in it. I read the first half of the book in small chunks so as not to be overcome by the bleakness.Thankfully, grace is extended by some of the townspeople and others learn to be more loving and forgiving than before. The story is beautifully written with vibrant characters. Lizzie Bright is especially delightful.

Even though, I'm glad I read it, I was disappointed in two things: its positive take on Darwin's writings and it's unmitigated sadness, which made it too heavy for a children's book.

Has anyone else read this? What did you think?

Friday, November 13, 2015

Eat with Joy by Rachel Marie Stone

A few years ago, when I first saw the word "foodie," I was amazed that anyone would admit to loving to eat. It seemed vaguely sinful. But as I've read other books about how communal eating meets deep human needs, I've been forced to rethink that. (After all, the word "companion" means a person with whom you share bread.)

Food writer Michael Pollan states that even though our nation is the most health-obsessed in the world, we are the least healthy. Eat with Joy: Redeeming God's Gift of Food grabbed my attention because it attempts to find the middle ground between gluttony and compulsive calorie counting.

Stone contends that our obsession with health keeps us from appreciating God's grace expressed to us through food:

Why did God make eating so pleasurable? The biological explanation - food is pleasurable so that we'll eat - is legitimate in its place, but it doesn't go far enough. It doesn't explain Le Cordon Bleu and fine wine, or chocolate for that matter... I suspect and prefer to believe that God made eating sustaining, delicious and pleasurable because God is all those things and more. (p. 24)

But how do we get back to eating as a means of grace? Stone suggests three ways. The first is to eat in community. She points out the most eating disorders are practiced in private. The second way to eat more wisely comes when we eat with gratitude. Thirdly, when we slow down, food takes its proper place. She goes as far as to say that if we grow our own food and cook it from scratch, we'll become just as satisfied with the process as with the eating. (I don't garden, but I do know the satisfaction of home-cooked meals. The more I eat them, the less I enjoy all the "fake" foods that are available in stores and restaurants.)

Lastly, she points out that our emphasis on nutrients and calories robs food of its true purpose, which is to remind us of God's goodness. So a cherry is not a shiny orb of tangy sweetness grown from a beautiful tree blossom, but a five-calorie delivery system for antioxidants, vitamin C, potassium, iron, fiber and magnesium. (p. 138)

My favorite quote from the book: Food is the daily sacrament of unnecessary goodness, ordained for a continual remembrance that the world will always be more delicious than useful. (p. 152)

While I appreciated Stone's insights, I was a little put off by some of the side issues in the book such as food justice. If you want a less technical book on the joys of eating in community, I highly recommend Shauna Niequist's Bread and Wine. (reviewed here)

P.S. I just happened to be reading a food-themed novel and enjoyed this quote that coincides with the ideas in Eat with Joy. The protagonist loved old recipes because they were "less concerned with fat or antioxidants. They were unselfconscious and more concerned with being tasty than being hip. They were food without an identity crisis." (from A Table by the Window, p. 238)

Thursday, November 5, 2015

London-on-a-Dime (Bookstores)

Before we travelled to London I googled, "cheap bookstores in London" and made out a list. But only one of the bookstores ("Any Amount of Books" on 56 Charing Cross Rd.) had what I would consider inexpensive books. Most of the other stores only had new titles, which don't interest me at any price.

Fortunately, I already knew that thrift stores in England are called "charity shops." I did a search for Oxfam stores (like Goodwill) in London and put about 10 of them on my xeroxed map of the city. That way when we were in that part of town to visit a museum or historical site, we could zip over to a nearby charity shop and look at their used books' section. A few of the Oxfam stores were just bookstores. I was thrilled to find vintage books in these places for 2 to 3 pounds.  Even though that comes out to about 4 to 5 dollars, I was pleased to find some books on my wish list. They are more valuable to me as souvenirs than all the overpriced junk in the tourist shops.

(One of my favorite Oxfam bookstores was three doors down from the Eagle and Child Pub in Oxford, so be sure and look it up if you take a side trip to C.S. Lewis territory.)

Sadly, I did not find any Elizabeth Goudge titles, but consoled myself with a beautifully bound copy of Elizabeth Gaskell's Cranford (pictured above). It's a 1949 tiny blue hardcover printed by Oxford University Press as part of its World Classics. It's lovely to hold!

Previous posts on saving money in London are here (tours) and here (food).

Thursday, October 22, 2015

London-on-a-Dime (Restaurants)

This is my second post on how to save money when visiting London. The first post was on free tours and this one is on food.

The quality of English cuisine has been a running joke for decades, but the Brits are rapidly overcoming their reputation for bad food because everything we ate was delicious (although expensive). Even though we are complete tightwads, we insist on one hot meal a day when we travel. So we eat very light breakfasts and suppers to make up for our "extravagant" lunches.

We spent one to two pounds a day ($1.50 to $3) for breakfast since our rented room had a hot pot for tea or instant coffee. Tea bags and sugar were provided so we usually had a hot drink, a large muffin and a banana in the morning (food which we purchased the night before). We ate out for lunch (suggestions below) and then had a snack supper, which we bought at the supermarket. Every grocery store (and some pharmacies) had a "meal deal" for $3 pounds ($4.50). It included a scrumptious sandwich, a drink and a bag of chips. In some cases we could switch the chips for an apple or a candy bar.

Now for the other meals... Since the food was delicious in every restaurant that we tried, we did not regret skimping on the other meals. Our favorite eateries were:

1) "The Crypt" (basement of St. Martin in the Fields Church off Trafalgar Square). The main dish there was nine pounds ($15) and was large. We probably could have split it and saved room for their fabulous fruit crumble with custard topping (which was also large enough to split). Free water.

2) Nando's - a restaurant chain all over the city that specializes in spicy chicken. Their meals were about 10 pounds ($15) and were delicious and filling. You could choose your preferred side dish and also the level of spiciness of your meat. Soft drinks were included.

3) Victoria and Albert Museum restaurant. This cafeteria was a total surprise because it was so elegant and chic. We ate egg plant moussaka and fresh sourdough bread for 9 pounds each. The place was gorgeous and jammed. We loved it! Bottled water only.

4) Byron Hamburgers - Most restaurants served chicken dishes and when we got a hankering for red meat, we tried this diner that boasted a "proper hamburger." We loved our juicy burgers with blue cheese melted on top. Each burger was 8 pounds ($12) and a side of onion rings was about $5. Free water.

5) On our very last day in London we discovered a chain called E.A.T. It was the first place we found with inexpensive hot food. It was a cold, drizzly day so it was nice to get chicken pot pie for 5 pounds each.

6) Lastly, there are a lot of places to have high tea, most of which are costly. I was happy to find a French bakery (Patisserie Valerie, #50 on Charing Cross Road) that served "tea for two" all day. It cost around $20 per person (less than most places), and was perfectly delightful.

We spent around $20 to $25 each day (per person) for meals. This is where most of our money went and that was okay. We enjoyed every bite.

Friday, October 16, 2015

D. E. Stevenson Books on Kindle

Dorothy Emily Stevenson (1892-1973) was a Scottish writer of light novels. She is a cut above the rest because of her beautiful writing and non-superficial characters. She is probably most famous for her Miss Buncle books, but I've also heard good reviews of her Mrs. Tim series.

Most of her books are out of print, but happily many are becoming available for e-readers. Although they are out my penny-pinching price range ($10), I was happy to see that one of her trilogies is available for less. Each book is $4: Vittoria CottageMusic in the Hills, and Shoulder the Sky 

Even better, those with Kindle Unlimited can read these for free.

Although these don't have "classic" Stevenson status, they would be a good introduction to her writing. I have not read the first two, but plan to give them to myself for Christmas.

(Shoulder the Sky is reviewed here and Miss Buncle's Book here.)

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

WWII Book Giveaway

For the next few weeks I'll be giving away some of my World War II books. The first one is The Righteous: The Unsung Heroes of the Holocaust by Martin Gilbert, which is about Gentiles who helped Jews during the war. It's a fascinating book. (My review is here). To enter please leave a comment on the Worthwhile Books facebook page.

Contest ends Wednesday, Oct 21st.

U.S. addresses only.

Good luck!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

London-on-a-Dime (Free Tours)

Way back in the '70s, my father owned a dog-eared copy of Europe on $5 a Day. He loved planning frugal trips for his family of six and Mom aided and abetted him by packing peanut butter and Tang in her purse to provide cheap meals. We stayed in dingy hostels, never bought souvenirs, and NEVER took any form of transportation if walking was feasible.

When my husband and I traveled to England recently for our 30th anniversary, my dad would have been proud. We pinched pennies so hard  you could practically hear them scream. But we had so much fun that I decided to devote a few posts to how we did it in case someone else needs suggestions.

On our first day in London, we took the free Sandeman's Tour. It was a three hour walking tour of Westminster (half of it in the rain), but it showed us how easy it was to walk around the city. Check the website for meeting times and places. My travel book said our tour was at 3 p.m., but when I checked online it was at 2.

Almost all museums in London are free, but did you know that many of the museums offer free tours? The museums are so loaded with artifacts that you don't know where to start, so a guided tour, focusing on a specific exhibit, was extremely helpful. Our favorite free tour (at the Victoria and Albert Museum) lasted just over an hour and took us through the Medieval and Renaissance rooms. The guide was terrific. We also took a half hour free tour at the British Museum on Assyrian history. Later we returned to that same museum armed with a pdf we had downloaded from the internet, "The Bible and the British Museum." This self-guided tour took us through the Assyrian and Persian rooms, pointing out archeological finds that confirmed biblical accounts. Unfortunately the second half was hard to follow since some of the exhibits had been moved and we couldn't follow the map. Still, it was great to see biblical history verified.

Lastly, we took a train to Oxford to do the C.S. Lewis tour. We felt deflated when we discovered it was only on Wednesdays. BUT all was not lost. I was in Blackwell's bookstore (where the tour originates) and looked down and saw an Oxford tour booklet for 3 pounds (about 5 dollars). The subtitle said "Self-guided Walking Tour" so I snatched it up and Dan and I wandered the streets of Oxford at our leisure, stopping in at restaurants and book shops as we followed the map around the city. Lovely! (The tours from Blackwells normally cost 8 pounds (about $12 each).

No trip to Oxford would be complete without a trip to the Eagle and Child Pub where the Inklings met weekly. This stop was not on our walking tour, so we sauntered across town to enjoy a glass of non-alcoholic ginger beer and to browse in a nearby book store.

Incidentally, we took one very expensive tour to Canterbury Cathedral, but these free ones are what we'll remember the longest.

(Other posts: dining and book shopping.)

Friday, September 25, 2015

A City of Bells by Elizabeth Goudge

I am a huge fan of Elizabeth Goudge. Imagine my disappointment when I visited England recently and couldn't find her books anywhere. But I had City of Bells in my luggage, so all was not lost.

It's the story of Jocelyn Irvin who has returned from the Boer War (1899-1902) with a lame leg. Reluctant to face a lot of people, he travels to Torminster, a quiet town where his grandfather lives. He begins to rebuild his life by opening a book shop and making new friends.

Although City of Bells left me bewildered at times, I enjoyed the characters and their passion for books. They playfully referred to Pride and Prejudice and Wuthering Heights as "Jane" and "Emily."

On page 105 Grandfather says this about books: In my experience when people once begin to read they go on. They begin because they think they ought to and they go on because they must. Yes. They find it widens life. We're all greeedy for life, you know, and our short span of existence can't give us all that we hunger for, the time is too short and our capacity not large enough. But in books we experience life vicariously. 

My enthusiasm for the book was dampened by the mystical thread about "thought transference," in which several characters send thoughts to each other across the miles. It seemed sort of silly in an otherwise serious story.

My favorite Goudge title is The Dean's Watch, but I've enjoyed the Damerosehay trilogy (The Bird in the TreePilgrim's Inn, and The Heart of the Family), I Saw Three Ships, and Island Magic. I did not like Middle Window, so not all of her books are created equal. But she's one of the best writers of light novels with deep themes.

I'm delighted that more of her books are becoming available for Kindle, although they are expensive (in the ten dollar range).

Friday, September 18, 2015

Heroes and Legends in Literature

I purchased Heroes and Legends: The Most Influential Characters of Literature with a free credit from

Professor Thomas Shippey (who is a Cambridge-educated expert on Medieval literature and a leading world scholar on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien) gives each of the 24 lectures. Each talk offers important insights into the world's great works of literature and why their heroes have lived on in our hearts and imaginations. How could I not love this series when it started out with a most unlikely hero, Frodo Baggins? Shippey explains why the world needed such a hero at that time in history.

Some of the lectures share additional, unknown information about famous characters (such as Robin Hood). Others walk the listener through the character's most famous story (Odysseus). I enjoyed the variety (In Lecture 16 he explains how people gained a taste for lighter reading. In Lecture 22 he talks about fairy tales and their modern feminist versions.) Although the final lectures include people that I would not have selected as literary heroes (Celie from The Color Purple and Winston Smith from 1984, for example), Shippey argues convincingly for their importance.

Shippey's enthusiasm for his subject keeps you listening. It doesn't hurt that he has a marvelous British voice and dry sense of humor. Although he deals with several indiscreet protagonists, he manages to keep the lectures at a PG level. I appreciated that he wasn't too politically correct to note when a character was helped by faith in God.

I've been listening to this off-and-on for three months and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a refresher course on books I'd already read, and whetted my appetite for some of the others, except for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which sounds horrific. I have my doubts about that choice, but figure it was added to appeal to 21st century readers. Otherwise these lectures are highly recommended to literature fans.

(They are ridiculously expensive on the Great Courses site, but are $30 at Amazon/Audible.)

Friday, September 11, 2015

Worthwhile Books Facebook Page and Book Giveaway

I love using Blogger, but am annoyed with how long it takes for my posts to publish. Often when I post about a free e-book, it is no longer free by the time my readers get the notice in their inbox.

So I decided to start a facebook page for instant postings; I also wanted a place to put quotes and thoughts about words without cluttering up the blog.

I'll be giving away books in the coming weeks and will be promoting them here and via the facebook page. The giveaways are limited to a United States address.

This week's book is On the Shoulders of Hobbits: The Road to Virtue with Tolkien and Lewis, which I reviewed here. To enter the giveaway "like" and leave a comment on the Worthwhile Books facebook page.

I'll choose a winner by September 25th. If you don't do facebook, just leave a comment here or send me an e-mail and I'll enter your name in the drawing.

Friday, September 4, 2015

The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie

Wealthy widow, Emily Ingelthorpe, has recently remarried and her sons view the new husband, Alfred, as a fortune hunter. As the novel begins Emily is surrounded by her young husband, her sons and their wives, and several other house guests. When she is a found dead, guest Captain Arthur Hastings contacts his friend Hercule Poirot to help solve the case.

The Mysterious Affair at Styles is my third Christie novel and it's a great cozy mystery. The writing is lovely; and Christie does a marvelous job of throwing the reader off the scent of the real killer. Plus, Poirot's fastidiousness is laugh-out-loud funny.

I listened to the version which was marvelously done by David Suchet. (I have to admit that listening to the book sometimes made it difficult to differentiate between the dizzying array of characters.) If you've ever watched the BBC Poirot mysteries you'll especially love the audio version of this novel. Suchet does a wonderful job with all the voices and made me feel quite nostalgic for Inspector Japp and Captain Hastings.

This is the book that introduced Poirot to the world. What a happy incident.

It's available for 99 cents on Kindle and for 2.95 at Audible. (Sadly, the Suchet version is no longer available.)

Friday, July 24, 2015

Children's Books for Adults has a list of seven children's books every adult should read. I heartily agree with their choice of Charlotte's Web which I reviewed here. We all know the famous C.S. Lewis quote about the best books being for all ages; so, obviously, a lot more than seven books should be on the list.

Three of my very favorite books are children's lit titles that I discovered as an adult: Wind in the Willows, Tuck Everlasting, and Peter Pan. The Narnia and Little House on the Prairie books are age-range friendly as well.

What about you? What are some of the children's titles that have touched you as an adult?

(Sidenote: I find it annoying/amusing that a web site and magazine called "Real Simple" should be so cluttered with advertisements that it's hard to find their content.)

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Woe is I by Patricia T. O'Conner

"Most of us don't know a gerund from a gerbil and don't care,
 but we'd like to speak and write as though we did."

Woe is I was written to help those who are intimidated by correct grammar usage. O'Conner (an editor at The New York Times Book Review) does her best to demistify the rules by giving helpful illustrations. In describing punctuation marks, she writes, "A comma acts as a yellow light, a period is a red light, and a semicolon is a flashing red light."

Although the book is meant for novices, it was just as enjoyable to someone like me who knows quite a lot about English. Because I appreciate beautiful, precise language, I enjoy an occasional refresher course in how to use it. I skimmed over the sections on rules I know well, and focused on the ones that give me problems.

And I revelled in grammar trivia like 1) the word "kudos" is singular, 2) "myriad" used to mean ten thousand, and 3) the word "oblivious" is followed by the word "of", and not "to".  It is weird how I get a kick out of stuff like that.

I discovered I've been using parameter interchangebly with perimiter, which is not the same thing. Also, minuscule is spelled with a "u" and not an "i". I am always puzzled by the use of "graduated" without a pronoun, but O'Conner clears up that confusion on p. 110.

This helpful little book, which is written with plenty of tips and writing samples (and a good dose of dry humor), would be excellent for use in a high school, homeschool setting.


Friday, July 10, 2015

The Kitchen Madonna by Rumer Godden

Janet and Gregory Thomas are the children of two busy architects. Janet (7) is pretty and friendly. Gregory (9) is shy and small for his age. After a series of unsuccessful nannies, Marta is hired. Unlike the other nannies who played games with the children, she is more sad and serious and Gregory identifies with her.

Marta tells stories of her childhood in the Ukraine and especially of her family's warm and cluttered kitchen. During one of her story-telling sessions she admits that she misses having an icon in the room. Gregory sets out to get her one by first going to the British Museum to study them, and then by going to an expensive jewelry store to buy one. Learning that he cannot afford anything close to what she described to him, he determines to make her one.

With no materials of his own, he has to overcome his shyness and ask the hatmaker and the candy shop lady for scraps from their trade. As the project develops so does his courage and ingenuity - and his willingness to give up his own comforts for the good of another. In fact, when the gift is finished, Marta does not cry and hug him (as his mother does) but shakes his hand as if he were a grown man.

No matter what your religious convictions, this is a beautiful story of the transforming power of self-giving love; it's definitely one of the loveliest stories I have read in a long time.

Rumer Godden is a fine author who skillfully weaves stories of faith without the saccharine. She wrote The Kitchen Madonna in 1967. Previous Godden titles that I've reviewed are: China Court, In this House of Brede, and Kingfishers Catch Fire.

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Little World of Don Camillo by Giovanni Guareschi

I have been intrigued by author Gary Schmidt and when I read that The Little World of Don Camillo was his favorite book, I determined to get my hands on it.

Don Camillo is a Catholic priest in post-WWII Italy. His nemesis is Peppone, the communist mayor who does all he can to undermine the work of the village church. The book relates the conflicts  of their two very different lives and how they try to resolve them. Don Camillo often talks to the Lord (looking up at the crucifix in the chapel) about his enemy and the prayers are hilariously funny. As Camillo tells God how he plans revenge on his enemy, the Lord talks him out of it, reminding him that he is a man of the cloth. (In the introduction, the author makes it clear that the voice of God in the book is not really God, but the voice of Camillo's own conscience so I did not find these light-hearted conversations to be offensive.)

Sometimes Camillo listens to God, but at other times he can't resist getting even with Peppone. Not only did I enjoy the humor of these escapades, but I also appreciated the complex relationship between the two men. They hate yet respect each other, and on a few occasions one of them helps the other in order to save his reputation. The final chapter is pure gold as the two of them sit in the church, working quietly in restoring figures for the Christmas manger scene. It's funny, poignant, and redemptive and I closed the book with a happy, contented sigh.

Although I loved this book, I'm not sure that everyone else will. The humor is definitely quirky and you would have to patient with the fact that the book is not plot-driven. But it's a real gem.

Footnote: the books I've read by Schmidt are The Wednesday Wars (reviewed here), and Okay for Now (reviewed here).

Friday, June 19, 2015

The Scarlet and the Black by J.P. Gallagher

A statue of Father O'Flaherty in his hometown of Killarney
A few months ago I reviewed the movie, The Scarlet and the Black, and now that I've read the book, I'm not sure which one I like better.

Both the book and film show the dangerous games played to outwit the Germans as they hunted for escaped POWs. The film was very true to the book (except when it was necessary to combine several characters into one person) and covered all the main incidents. The book, on the other hand, fleshed out the characters, added a few extra hair-raising events, and ended differently. Whereas the book highlighted hundreds of acts of kindness done by O'Flaherty at the war's end, the movie condensed them into one huge act of mercy. Frankly, I loved both endings.

The book does a better job of explaining why there were hundreds of POWs roaming around the Vatican and also explains why the Italians were so willing to look the other way when O'Flaherty and others hid them. Gallagher shows how O'Flaherty's audacity and trustfulness were balanced by the caution and discernment of the others in the rescue organization. His descriptions of the resourcefulness of butler John May from the English embassy had me chortling all the way through.

Get this title if you enjoy stories of heroism on the homefront.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Somewhere Safe With Somebody Good by Jan Karon

Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good continues the gentle saga of Father Tim Kavanagh as he tries to find his niche after retiring from pastoring Lord's Chapel. His wife Cynthia suggests they rekindle their relationship by writing love letters. Her description of their marriage in one of these letters gives the book its title.

Unlike most modern authors who portray faith in fiction, Karon manages to portray Christianity without all the hokiness. Father Tim is not overly good or sweet. He's a man with doubts and weaknesses, but he humbly goes forward reaching out to those in Mitford who need help. He lives out the Abraham Verghese quote: "We are all fixing what is broken. It is the task of a lifetime." (p. 421) The folks in Mitford are at various stages of brokenness and healing, all in need of grace. But to keep things from getting too dismal, some of the characters are hilariously funny.

Karon is a lovely writer and although she may not have the depth and eloquence of Wendell Berry, but she does a darn good job of echoing his favorite theme: the healing power of community. More than once in the book Father Tim reflects on how they managed to have such "a big life in such a small town."

He flashed back to his days as a bachelor. So routine, so undisturbed by dissonance, one might have heard a pin drop in his life. Then a dog as big as a Buick started following him home, and then Dooley showed up, and then Puny came to work, and then Cynthia moved in next door, and then Puny started having twins, and that's how he ended up with a real life... (p. 204)

This is another lovely addition to the series.

Note: There are A LOT of people in the novel and it is helpful (but not essential) to have read the previous books. (I missed the two books previous to this one, but Karon does a good job of reminding the reader of back stories.)

Friday, June 5, 2015

The Woman in Black by E.C. Bentley

After three atrociously-written books in a row, what a joy to find a novel that opened like this:

Between what matters and what seems to matter, how should the world we know judge wisely? When the scheming, idomitable brain of Sigsbee Manderson was scattered by shot from an unknown hand, that world lost nothing worth a single tear.

These lines from The Woman in Black hinted of gentle wisdom, good writing and a ripping good tale. I was immediately drawn into a story that never once made me stumble (over clumsy phrasing) or murder me with boredom (uninteresting characters). Need I even mention that it was written by a Britisher and in an era when people still knew how to string their sentences together (1913)? Oh, and it's dedicated to G.K. Chesterton, which further intrigued me.

World famous financier, Sigbee Manderson, is murdered on the grounds of his palacial home and Philip Trent is called in to investigate. He gathers an astonishing number of clues, which clearly point to the murderer, but for reasons I can't divulge, he decides not to arrest him. Later he discovers that his case isn't as "open and shut" as he thought it was. There are some wonderful twists.

Like, Lord Peter Wimsy, Trent is an amateur gentleman sleuth. He is no stuff shirt, though. His ability to joke and to quote poetry (mangling it to fit the situation) made him particularly endearing.

The book is more popularly titled, Trent's Last Case. The sequel, Trent's Own Case was written 23 years later. Sadly, they are the only two novels in the series (though there were short stories) I really enjoyed this and will be looking for the second book via library loan.

Note: By the original title, this is free for Kindle. By the newer title, it's 99 cents.

Friday, May 29, 2015

More Recommended Librivox Recordings

Several of you left comments on an earlier post, recommending above average readers at Librivox. I'm already hooked on Adrian Praetzellis, and Mil Nicholson (photo). When I googled Nicholson, I discovered another treasure: Ruth Golding (an excellent reader herself) has compiled a list of the best British voices over at Librivox.

Andy Minter is an excellent reader who lists his recordings on his website. Mark Smith does a great job too.

I look forward to reviewing many of these.

Happy Summer listening!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker

The full title of this book is: Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity. It is the story of how God moved Jen and her husband out of a thriving ministry to start doing church a whole new way. It's similar to Hugh Halter's Flesh, which I reviewed a few weeks ago in that it describes the adventure of living their faith "out of the (Christian) box".

Hatmaker writes about her life-altering prayer, "God, raise up in me a holy passion." I meant "God, give me happy feelings." I was not seriously asking for intervention that would require anything of me. Hardly. "Holy Passion" meant "pull me out of this funk with Your magic happiness wand." Was that too much to ask? Can't a girl get some cheery feelings about her wonderful, prosperous life? Evidently not. (p. 9)

She goes on to recount how the Lord moved them from a comfortable church position to a no-job, no-church, no salary scenario. Since we couldn't rely on our default responses - planning, organizing, mobilizing, controlling - we did the only thing left. We prayed like crazy people... Never have we stood with such open hands, clinging to nothing, ready for anything... When we had nothing left to protect, no position left to defend, no reputation left to guard, and no one else to please, we got our marching orders. (p. 139-141)

I get a kick out of the next part of their testimony since it was a call from a Free Methodist (the tiny denomination of which I'm a part) superintendent that changed their course. He and 60 prayer partners had raised the funds to start a church plant in Austin, Texas. Could the Hatmaker's see their way clear to partcipate? Yes, they could! Then began a roller coaster ride of faith as they reached out to people in whole new ways.

Hatmaker feels there is an overemphasis on Sunday morning church as the "front door." Sharing our lives with dear people to win them to Jesus is the substance of Christianity. A pastor cannot effectively show love to his entire congregation as he preaches from the pulpit. A random group of stangers standing in the church lobby cannot offer legitimate community to a sojourner who walks in the door. One decent sermon cannot influence a disoriented person in the same way your consistent presence in her life can. (p. 205)

She goes on to talk about the cost of pouring yourself out for others so that they might be drawn to Christ (what Oswald Chambers calls "being broken bread and poured out wine.") Unlike many evangelistic methods, this relationship building takes time. "In our community, people are hungry to have a meaningful spiritual discussion, they just don't want to have it with a Christian weirdo who doesn't even know their last name." (p. 236) Indeed.

This book will give you lots to think about. Of all Hatmaker's books, this is the one she most highly recommends.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

What's On My Nightstand

I'm sitting in the University library in my favorite small town in Michigan, basically in book heaven. I just looked at my Amazon "books to investigate" list and ordered the following books via inter-library loan. (As these books come in I'll be reviewing the best ones. The bad ones will just get crossed off.)

The Scarlet and the Black - Gallagher (WWII)
Our Only May Amelia - Holm (children's lit)
How to be Idle by Hodgkinson (I read a few pages of this trivial book and decided there were much better titles on my TBR list.)
If You Want to Write by Ueland
The Deep Things of God by Fred Sanders (about the trinity)
Becoming Orthodox by Gillquist
Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and The Rise of Raunch Culture by Levy (As raunchy as the title. Unfortunately she offers no real solutions.)

Already on my book pile: Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good, Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert and Miracle at the Higher Grounds Cafe by Lucado.

It's a cold, gray day. Perfect for curling up with one of these books! (I'm restraining myself from putting multiple exclamation points.) So happy to have access to so many books.

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Benefit of Kindle Fire for Book Bloggers (and other Random Thoughts)

By the time this post goes live I'll be in the U.S. for our brief home assignment. I have pre-scheduled several posts because I don't know when I'll be back online.

First of all, I'm excited about living in a city in Michigan where I'll have access to many libraries. My Amazon wish list is really a list of 500+ suggestions for books and I'll be reading/exploring voraciously during our 8-month stay.

Secondly, for any of bloggers who use Kindle Fire, I want to share what I love about the color options for highlighting. I use the yellow for general highlighting, the pink for salient quotes (for the blog or for facebook), the blue for new vocabulary words and the brown for titles of books or points of history that require further investigation. Since research shows that our brains remember less of what we read on e-readers, I like to finish a book and then go back and re-read all my yellow highlights to fix the main ideas in my head.

Third, there has been some buzz on the internet on the book How Dante Can Save Your Life by Rod Dreher. Since I made it through Paradise Lost, I may just give this classic a try as well.

Fourth, my brother, Dr. Bill Ury is a wonderful thinker/teacher/preacher and has just had a book published on the important theme of forgiveness.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Paradise Lost for Dummies (like me!)

It's been two weeks since I finished Paradise Lost and I'm still speechless. It is a work of astonishing beauty and unforgettable imagery, which rightly deserves its place in the canon of the world's greatest literature.

But here I must make a confession: It took a tremendous amount of determination to finish it. And I only made it through with the help of several other resources. First, I found John Milton's Paradise Lost In Plain English which included a simple paraphrase along with the original text. I am pretty good at reading antiquated English, but even so I needed the "translation" about half the time.

As a child I was not fond of peas and was often sent to the basement to finish my meal. Reading Paradise Lost was a bit like sitting on those basement steps, struggling to get down each bite. But, lo and behold, I discovered an ally in Leland Ryken who encouraged me to keep going via his series, Christian Guides to the Classics

Ryken, an English professor at Wheaton College, has written a booklet outlining the major themes of Milton's masterpiece. He also supplies discussion questions and many insights into the book of which I was unaware, especially that PL mirrored all the great epic stories while at the same time turning them on their heads.

I could keep on gushing about the book, but luckily for you I have a bad cold and I'm leaving Brazil in less than a week (!) and don't have the time or energy to write more. I'll leave you with a few examples from the book.

After Adam and Eve sin, Christ says to his Father:

I go to judge on earth these thy transgressors, but thou knowst, whoever judged, the worst in me must light, when time shall be, for so I undertook before Thee; and not repenting, this obtain of right, that I may mitigate their doom on me derived. (Lanzara's paraphrase: I'll go judge the sinners. But you and I both know I'll be the one who gets the worst of the punishment. I promised it so they wouldn't have to die and I have no regrets.)

Examples of Milton's lovely prose:

Nor love thy life, nor hate; but what thou livst, live well. How long or short permit to Heav'n. XI-553

Satan mocks God's angels by saying they praise Him with "warbled hymns" and "forced hallelujahs." (II-243).

Contrast that to Milton's view of angels in heaven who "eat, drink, and in communion sweet quaff immortality and joy." V-637

This is another favorite book of mine for 2015.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers

Batman has Albert. Wooster has Jeeves. And Wimsey has the amazing Mervyn Bunter as his butler sidekick.

Lord Peter Wimsey is a bored aristocrat who suffers from post traumatic stress disorder related to his experiences in WWI. One of the "cures" is to keep his mind busy by solving crimes. He especially enjoys beating the slow-witted inspector Sugg at his own game.

I loved this first in the Lord Peter Wimsey novels. Aside from some light profanities, it is chock-full of British witticisms and had me smiling from start to finish. A wealthy financier turns up missing on the same night that a naked stranger is found in Mr. Thipp's bathtub. They are not the same man, but Wimsey is determined to show that they are connected.

The two men who help are his manservant Bunter and Chief inspector Charles Parker. Both these men are endearing. Bunter is pure snob, but manages to pull it off beautifully. Parker is a more humble man who reads theology books for pleasure. He is the "slow and steady" foil to Wimsey's more flighty character.

Whose Body? pretends to be a light-hearted mystery, but asks important questions. The scientist in the story sees piety and concience as chemical/physical responses. "The knowledge of good and evil is an observed phenomenon, attendant upon a certain condition of the brain cells" (p. 91) Lord Peter and Inspector Parker have a long conversation about the the morality of detective work. Plus there are a lot of literary allusions. So it's a fun book if you like to think even when reading lighter fare.

Unlike the pricier books in the series Whose Body? is only 99 cents for Kindle.

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Inmates are Running the Asylum by Stephen Altrogge

When my work load is overwhelming, I don't want my reading to be heavy too. So I was happy to stumble upon these essays by Stephen Altrogge.  I must have been in the mood for Atrogge's quirky humor, because I had to keep myself from laughing out loud on the subway when I read, "There are certain things that parenting books can't prepare you for, such as dealing with real, living children."

This short book (68 pages) is light and witty, yet not "fluffy." Altrogge gives you lots to think about as he pokes fun at parenting experts, Amish romances, reality TV, and organic food. I really appreciated what he had to say about the present popularity of bucket lists:

If you were to only look at our bucket lists, you would conclude that my generation is the most ambitious generation to ever walk the face of the earth. Everybody wants to accomplish a lot of awesome things. Now, I'm all for ambitious goal-setting and for trying to acheive great things, but the whole concept of a bucket list kind of bothers me. When you think about it, the whole concept is profoundly selfish. [The Bible says,] "Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others." If anything, I should be making a bucket list of ways I want to serve others before I die."

Where's the excitement in that? Wheres the fun and thrill in that? I mean, holiness doesn't exactly give the same adrenaline rush as dropping out of a helicopter and skiing down the slopes of a mountain. The thing God cares about and honors is faithfulness, not famousness. Faithfulness looks like creating spreadsheets and changing diapers and caring for aging parents and setting up chairs on Sunday morning. Nobody gets a standing ovation for faithfulness. Nobody even notices, except God.

The Inmates Are Running the Asylum is an odd combination of goofy humor and clear thinking. Worth a look.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Movies about Faith

It's a rare thing to find a movie that deals with Christianity in a responsible and respectful way. So I was intrigued by these two lists that surfaced recently.

Relevant Magazine highlighted 8 Underrated "Christian" Movies. I've only seen a couple of them. Although The Book of Eli was way over my comfort level for violence, it was a remarkable movie. I'll never forget the scene when Solara wakes up and sees Eli reading the Bible and asks him why he would bother reading the same book every day. Good question. And of course the final scene when he reaches safety and "hands  over" the book is powerful.

The Imaginative Conservative lists 10 Movies Every Conservative Should See. While, not overtly Christian, they deal with the important themes of hope, mercy, free will, and family. (I've only seen one of the ten.)

Let's face it. Most Christian movies are cheesy and I'd be embarrassed to show them to anyone. But here are a few other films that handle Christian themes with care:

1) A Man for All Seasons (1966)
2) Babette's Feast (1987)
3) The Scarlet and the Black (1983)
4) Unbroken (2014)
5) Chariots Of Fire (1981)
6) Secretariat (2010) - Though not technically a "Christian" movie, it includes voice-overs of scripture being read and seamlessly includes the gospel song "Oh Happy Day." Powerful without being obtrusive.
7) Person of Interest (TV series) deals with many ethical issues. (Are bad people worth saving? How far can man go in trying to play God? etc.) In spite of the violence, I appreciated the repeated redemptive themes in this program.

Do you have suggestions for other movies?

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Righteous by Martin Gilbert

Martin Gilbert's The Righteous: The Unsung Heroes of the Holocaust gives an account of the thousands of gentiles who helped the Jews during the Holocaust. Many of us know the names of the more famous rescuers (Schindler, Wallenberg, Corrie Ten Boom, etc.), but Gilbert highlights hundreds more.

He divides the book by countries, which makes for a fascinating study of how different areas in Europe reacted to the Nazi mandate to exterminate the Jews. Some caved in and turned in their Jewish poplulation while others (like Norway) resisted with all their might.

Gilbert writes that there are 19,000 documented "Righteous" but many thousands more whose names will never be known. In fact, for every Jew who was saved at least TEN people were involved either by directly helping or by looking the other way and not reporting them. After the war, one man, Konrade Latte, could name 50 people who had helped him survive. This was more than "doing a good deed" since helping a Jew was punishable by death. When a hiding place was discovered, those in hiding (as well as their host families) were brutally murdered.

By and large most of the rescuers were Christians, but not always. In some cases even anti-semites were hiding Jews as a protest against Nazi savagery. A few rescuers extorted money from their "guests" and turned them out when the money was gone. But most of the stories are about poor people who were willing to share the little they had with those in need. Huge numbers of Jews spent the war hiding in pits under barns and village houses, only coming out at night to get fresh air.

How could 450 pages of statistics and unpronouncable names (Wladyslaw Liszewski, for example) be so compelling? I have to admit that after awhile some of the stories started to run together, but, honestly, reading list after list of rescuers and rescued showed a magnitude of mercy that was staggering.

It was astounding to read that none of the Righteous thought that their actions were out of the ordinary. It was astounding that many were prepared to die for people they hardly knew. It was astounding that many parents handed their babies to complete strangers as they marched off to concentration camps with complete faith that their children would be taken care of. (One huge question in my mind was, "What happened to all those parentless children after the war?")

If you are interested in WWII and also in this fascinating slice of Holocaust history, I recommend this book.

Stay tuned because I'll be giving it away to one of my readers when I head to the U.S. this summer.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Intimidating Classics

Although I was an English major in college and have a masters in philosophy and theology, I am intimidated by certain books. I sometimes wish I still had an English teacher to walk me through them. But I've discovered the next best thing: simplified (but not dumbed down) versions.

The less-daunting language helped me get over my qualms about these titles and it didn't take long to recognize their well-deserved classic status. The books I have tackled this way are:

Beowulf (Serraillier's children's version)
Paradise Lost (comes with a plain English version next to the poetic version)
The Odyssey (retold by Charles Lamb)
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Morpurgo's version for young people)

Another favorite method for getting through a difficult book is to listen to the audioversion, but this doesn't always work for books that requires careful, slow reading. Here are a few titles I would not have read (and enjoyed) if it had not been for the audioversion:

Shakespeare plays, The Turn of the Screw by James, Heart of Darkness by Conrad, Emma & Northanger Abbey by Austen, Daniel Deronda by Eliot and Moby Dick.

Even though I know they are worth the extra effort I'm still avoiding:

Anna Karenina, The Brothers Karamazov, Spencer's Faerie Queen, Canterbury Tales, The Aeneid, and Dante's Divine Comedy. Oh, and Uncle Tom's Cabin.

What about you? Are there any books you've been afraid to try?

Friday, March 27, 2015

Honey for a Teen's Heart by Gladys Hunt

Why would I read about books recommended for teens when my teens are grown? Why would I add almost a hundred titles to my already overwhelming list of "books to read someday"? Because I'm nuts. Nuts about books, that is. And I'm fond of Gladys Hunt whose Honey for a Child's Heart led us to many happy hours of family read-alouds.  AND because a really good YA book can be read and enjoyed by an adult. (Two of my very favorite books are The Giver and Tuck Everlasting.)

I also like books that make me think. The subtitle of Honey for a Teen's Heart is: "Using Books to Communicate with Teens" and Hunt offers hundreds of suggestions for family read-alouds that will open up the floor for discussion of crucial subjects. Some of her choices are more gritty than I like, but probably necessary because of the sordid world we live in. Each recommendation is followed by several paragraphs of explanation about its theme or its author's world view. Very helpful!

The book is divided into sections by genre/subject. (Mostly fiction titles since stories offer wonderful fodder for discussion.) A small percentage of the books fall into the "twaddle" category, but every parent has to make book choices based on their child's interests and reading level. There are dozens of tried and true classics listed, but many more modern and new (to me) books.

Since I abhor most of the rubbish that has been written for children in the last 60 years, I'm thankful for someone like Gladys Hunt who has sifted through the chaff and brought out the wheat. I can hardly get wait to get back to the U.S. to look up some of these titles. (two months from now!)

I look forward to sharing my thoughts about these books in the near future.

Note: There is a small issue with the Kindle formatting which sometimes puts information from the sidebar into the middle of the text.